CO2 is a unique and multifaceted gas that creates large leaps and bounds in terms of science, health, food, and many other important industries.
However, while CO2 is extremely useful, there are safety precautions you need to be aware of before you start using and or handling any form of CO2.
CO2 is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that can only be detected by using devices that are designed to accurately and repeatedly measure the concentration of the gas. While some industry veterans will tell you they "feel a tingle" or "get an acidic taste in their mouth" when CO2 levels are elevated a typical employee needs protection of monitoring to warn them of hazardous conditions.
According to Occupational Safety Hazard Association (OSHA), the initial warning for CO2 exposure is 5,000 ppm Time Weighted Average (essentially an average of all the readings over a rolling 8 hr. period). CO2 concentrations higher than 5,000 ppm can lead to adverse health effects, injury and even death.
Standard industrial practices are for anyone handling CO2, whether it be in the form of dry ice, cylinders, or in bulk distribution to always be aware of proper CO2 safety concentrations and precautions to prevent injury.
Let's Discuss Applications.
Restaurants & Food
Any restaurant serving dispensed carbonated beverages is at risk. Every soda you drink or beer you pour contains a low percentage of beverage grade carbon dioxide that is mixed into the drink at a specific levels.
While CO2 creates that sensational fizz all customers know and enjoy employees who work in and around the systems need to be protected. Many parts of the CO2 system can leak causing dangerous levels of CO2.
One area of potential hazard is the syrup pumps that drive the mixture of CO2, water, and syrup - these should be vented to the exterior of the building but often are not. Empty syrup bags or leaks in the pumps can drive CO2 above 5,000 ppm within a few moments!
In order to properly protect employees and customers facilities should install CO2 monitors that can be placed in an area that is most likely to experience a leakage and ensure rapid detection to mitigate any hazards from occurring.
Breweries & Wineries
In the process of alcohol fermentation in brewing and wine making, large amounts of CO2 are generated.
It is important to ensure that during purging or cleaning of tanks that precautions are taken to insure employee safety. OSHA and Brewers Association procedures for confined space entry should be followed as well as having "lock out - Tag out" procedures in place. Whether monitoring for spacial concentration rises or personal monitor CO2 mitigation is a primary concern for these employees and facilities.
Aside from the importance in fermentation and brite tank areas, another concern area in brewery applications are the walk-in draft coolers. Coolers are designed to be air tight to keep cold air in. However, the cooler can then trap CO2 leaks from loose tavern heads or splits hoses releasing deadly levels of CO2. Without monitoring and detection in place a bartender could easily be overcome by CO2 in the walk-in draft cooler.
Prevention and Precaution is Key
Fixed monitors are the preferred "go to" for these industries as many state and local jurisdictions have adopted regulations requiring safety devices which have audible/visual alarms and a relay to control a ventilation fan.
Indoor agriculture professionals have studied the benefits of utilizing CO2 as an enrichment source for years.
Analysis has shown a 30% or more increase in crop yield when utilizing CO2 with no ill effects on plants.
These growers are essentially accelerating the photosynthetic process by utilizing CO2. However, like the walk-in draft coolers, these grow rooms are nearly air tight to ensure gas (and other elements) aren't wasted.
These confined spaces can trap the gas and created elevated concentrations that are elevated and hazardous, so notifying occupants in the rooms and those about to enter the rooms of a hazard is critical to safety protocols.
What can be done?
Rooms can be designed with fixed gas detection devices like in brewing or restaurant applications but personnel can also be kept safe by wearing a Personal CO2 safety monitor.
By ensuring your workers are properly educated and have the proper CO2 monitors available, you can mitigate any potential risks from occurring!
Indoor Air Quality
Evolving standards for indoor air quality now combine CO2, VOC's, and particulate matter in understanding a given space level of "health" and overall "wellbeing".
OSHA, NIOSH, and the US Green Building Council have all published standards for acceptable levels of air quality, one should look out for and abide by.
Measuring CO2 is easy and cost effective now with devices like CO2 desktop monitors. Quick and accurate IAQ measurements can be made in areas in your home, office, or classroom.
When you think of CO2 and Fire Suppression you likely think of fire extinguishers. Your typical home or office fire extinguisher vaporizes CO2 under enormous pressure to create the "fog" you see. That CO2 "fog" displaces the oxygen around the fire eliminating the fires source to "breath".
Large facilities with equipment that could be damaged by using a typical water sprinkler system also utilize CO2 as a fire suppressant but on a much larger scale. Dozens of CO2 cylinders under more than 300 psi pressure are released to "flood" a space with CO2 and eliminate oxygen.
These systems need to be maintained and tested for effectiveness regularly including providing full reporting and analysis to local fire officials for validation.
CO2Meter has designed and manufactured one of the only devices that can help fire suppression testers meet the NFPA 12 standard.
What Can You Do?
Ultimately, the first thing that you need to do to ensure your safety and the safety of others is to be notified of a leak before it gets out of hand, by proper detection from a CO2 Fixed Wall Mount, Desktop or Handheld Personal Safety Device.
In Terms of Fixed Devices, the most popular Remote CO2 Storage Safety Alarm (RAD-0102-6) can be mounted on the wall and used to detect up to 50,000 ppm (5%) warning employees before a real safety issue occurs.
If Personal Handheld devices are preferred, portable CO2 monitors such as the Personal 5% CO2 Safety Monitor (SAN-10) are available for employees to be able to clip onto a belt buckle and go. These devices also feature a unique "man-down alarm" should a fall or injury ever occur due to over exposure.
Always remember, no matter where you work, live, or play, you should always be aware of the levels of atmospheric CO2 around you and understand the safety procedures to prevent injury from occurring.