Do Brewers Need Carbon Dioxide Monitors?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) safety monitors are used by brewers and carbonated beverage dispensers to protect customers and employees around stored or created CO2. Carbon dioxide monitors are also referred to as CO2 meters, CO2 detectors, CO2 sensors or CO2 safety alarms.
What distinguishes one CO2 monitor from another depends upon a few specific requirements:
- A CO2 monitor must have a remote display, allowing workers to see and evaluate CO2 levels by visual and audible alarms which are triggered when unsafe levels of carbon dioxide have been reached. This notifies workers to not go into an area of potential danger.
- The monitor must sound and flash at at least four different CO2 concentrations (5,000 ppm TWA, 5,000 ppm instantaneous, 1.5% and 3% CO2).
- A CO2 monitor should have relays that automatically trigger third party devices like an exhaust fan to ventilate the area or a shut-off valve to stop the supply of CO2. Some jurisdictions even require a second alarm relay to trigger the fire control panel of the building and directly notify your local fire department.
- A CO2 monitor can be used to adhere to specific OSHA safety requirements and local inspection codes.
- Depending on local codes, CO2 monitors may also require additional safety accessories including strobe lights.
CO2 Levels, Concentrations and Overexposure
Breweries pose unique challenges when it comes to CO2 in the workplace. While carbon dioxide is a necessary product in the brewing process and a byproduct of the process, it can be a potential deathtrap for those working in the brewing industry.
Exposure to high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas can be extremely dangerous for brewers. Normal indoor air CO2 concentrations tend to be around 400-800ppm (parts per million), whereas in the case of CO2 off-gassing or a CO2 system leak, concentrations can quickly reach 50,000 ppm (5% CO2 by volume). This is above the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) evacuation threshold of 30,000 ppm or 3% CO2 by volume.
For brewers, specific duties that involve cleaning fermentation tanks, maintaining yeast disposal, and working in walk-in coolers can all be potentially hazardous as well as being considered confined spaces by OSHA. These areas can trap the gas in a space where it cannot escape.
In addition, carbon dioxide gas lines run throughout the brewery to get the gas to the correct locations can create a potential hazard. While CO2 tanks or cylinders leaks are rare, tubing connected to gas manifolds can have loose fittings or be cut accidently.
Just because you can’t see, smell, or taste this inert gas does not mean that it is not present and potentially deadly.
Common Symptoms of CO2 Overexposure
- Irregular heart rate
How to Stay Safe from Carbon Dioxide?
Being aware of the potential hazards of carbon dioxide gas and the specific hazardous areas in the brewery is the first step. And having devices to properly monitor and measure the CO2 is the most important opportunity to save lives.
Because CO2 can quickly create a hazardous environment beyond displacing oxygen in the room, elevated CO2 can lead to severe negative health effects such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, asphyxiation and even fatality if not properly monitored. Brewers tend to be at a risk of exposure to more than 3% CO2 (OSHA's evacuation threshold) within minutes and if carbon dioxide monitors are not installed. 4% CO2 is Immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) as established by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and OSHA.
Brewery CO2 Hazard Areas
The primary areas of concern when dealing with CO2 in breweries are the fermentation areas, brite tanks, walk-in draft coolers and gas lines from CO2 tanks or cylinders. The massive volume of compressed gas in the vessels and keg coolers can easily overcome an average adult in seconds. When high volumes of CO2 - and corresponding oxygen deficiency - is combined with poor ventilation in confined spaces you have a CO2 hazard.
While every veteran brewer has a story to tell about being "knocked to the floor" by CO2, some are not so lucky. For example a deadly event in Mexico (“Seven workers dead in confined space accident”) resulted from the workers overcome while cleaning a fermentation tank. According to the article, employees at the Grupo Modelo Brewery were conducting routine cleaning inside a tank when they were overcome by the gas.
Few breweries realize that there are devices designed to monitor carbon dioxide exposure in confined spaces. When CO2 rises a worker could start to become fatigued, feel dizzy, or even faint and fall. A high CO2 concentration can easily displace the oxygen in the air. Often this can happen suddenly and without warning.
Do Breweries Require CO2 Monitors?
Because of a long history of worker deaths from CO2 exposure, many local municipalities now require carbon dioxide safety devices.
Most local codes are based on recommendations from the International Fire Code (IFC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Both the IFC and NFPA codes require the installation of gas detection when a known gas is present.
Facilities with walk-in draft coolers are especially vulnerable. These coolers are relatively small, sealed, and can trap CO2 gas. If a leak occurs, when the door is opened a worker can be overwhelmed by the "wall" of CO2.
Best Carbon Dioxide Monitors for Breweries
CO2 Storage Safety Alarm
Imagine an employee is asked to go into a room where the CO2 is stored. Now suppose the fitting on the CO2 cylinder or keg has been leaking all night.
When that employee walks in that room they could instantly be knocked unconscious by the CO2. However, a Fixed CO2 Safety Monitor would warn them not to open the door, or a Portable CO2 Safety Monitor would instantly alert the employee to the gas when they opened the door.
Brewery and Beverage CO2 Frequently Asked Questions
Where does CO2 come from in a craft brewery?
CO2 can be found in many areas of a brewery and is most often used as a flavor stabilizer during the brewing process. In addition, carbon dioxide can come from carbonation, fermentation, pressurization, packaging lines, walk-in draft beer coolers, stored CO2 cylinders, or inerting when beer is already fermented.
Is carbon dioxide dangerous in other industries or just breweries?
Just like breweries, for those industries that use, store, or produce CO2 there is similar precautions they need to adhere to when it comes to monitoring CO2 and reducing employee and establishment injury. These industries can include restaurants, beverage, wineries, food storage, laboratories, and agriculture - to name a few.
Have any serious incidents occurred when CO2 is not monitored?
Because of past injury and exposure to harmful concentrations of carbon dioxide - regulations have been put in place to ensure CO2 safety. Some incidents as a result of carbon dioxide exposure without proper monitoring include a 2012 brewery accident and a 2011 carbon dioxide incident during brewery maintenance, to new a few.
What regulations do I need to meet to become "CO2 Safe" in my brewery?
Currently, OSHA has set requirements that limit the amount of CO2 exposure that workers are allowed to come into contact with. For an eight-hour period, the limit is 5,000 ppm Time Weighted Average and 30,000 ppm for a ten-minute period. You can reduce CO2 injury from occurring by installing a CO2 monitor like the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm, that meets these standards.
How much does a CO2 Monitor cost and where should it be installed?
Carbon Dioxide monitors are fairly cost effective and can range anywhere from $700 - $1,000+ depending on the complexity of your facility. CO2 Monitors typically should be installed 12 inches off the floor (because CO2 is heavier than air) and near any area that stores or produces carbon dioxide.
Ensuring Craft Brewer CO2 safety
In today’s world brewery owners and professionals must be leaders and take appropriate preventative steps by installing and assuring complete safety for their workers, providing awareness and avoiding any accidents that commonly arise.
Besides the dangers, think of the rise in insurance rates, or loss of insurance due to an incident. Or the angst you'd feel if an employee was injured or your team experienced a fatality. Breweries throughout the world now can avoid the tragedies shown too often in the media with CO2 safety monitoring solutions.
For more information on carbon dioxide safety devices, or to ensure you are selecting the right monitor for your industry or application - speak to an expert today.