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Category Archives: Industrial Safety Services & Equipment

Interpreting Direct Reading Instrumentation

By Hans Umhoefer, Sr. Industrial Hygiene Specialist, Total Safety

How many times has your GPS given questionable directions? Do you continue to follow it when the “road” has deteriorated into boulders and fallen trees? Like a GPS, a direct reading instrument provides information that must be interpreted.

Direct reading instrumentation has earned itself a place in any safety professional’s bag of tricks. They are robust, fairly precise, and they give a result quickly. The real time, single number display makes them extremely useful, but it can be misleading. We can’t simply accept the numbers on the display. We must ask, “What do those numbers really mean?”

When a CO sensor is calibrated, you can be reasonably assured that, in the presence of 50 ppm of CO, the instrument will read approximately 50 ppm. But what if CO doesn’t make any sense? All of these sensors have cross-sensitivities. Acetylene and hydrogen will produce a response on a CO sensor at relatively low concentrations (RAE Systems TN-121). A leaking acetylene cylinder or battery charging operations could be producing CO reading.

Combustible gas (LEL) sensors and photo-ionization detectors (PID) are designed to respond to a wide range of compounds. However, the sensors do not respond the same to each of these compounds. When these instruments are calibrated with a certain gas, they read in units of that gas. The best way to correct for this is to calibrate with the chemical you will be measuring. However, maintaining this stock of calibration gases would be a nightmare. Fortunately, manufacturers publish correction factors for their instrumentation that allow us to calibrate with standard gasses and then calculate the concentration of the analyte.

When an LEL sensor, calibrated with methane, is used to measure the concentration of o-xylene, the reading must be multiplied by a correction factor of 3.0 (RAE Systems TN-156). In this situation, a reading of 40% LEL methane corresponds to a concentration of 120% LEL o-xylene!

Correction factors greater than one mean the instrument will underestimate the actual concentration, while those less than one result in an overestimation. Most correction factors for a combustible gas sensor are greater than one. Thus, it is possible to exceed the LEL while the instrument reads less than 100%. This is part of the reason for setting the low alarm at 10% LEL. The process for a PID is similar.

Additionally, direct reading does not mean instantaneous reading. Sensor response time can vary from 10 seconds for a PID to 200 seconds for a HCN sensor. These times are magnified if the instrument must pull the sample through a length of tubing. It is important to wait until the reading stabilizes before moving to a new position and collecting another sample. Alarm settings must be low enough to provide sufficient warning of an increasing gas concentration.

It is important to understand how the instrument reports data. Check the datalogging interval and measurement type in the datalog setup to be sure they are appropriate for your purposes. Direct reading instruments typically record average or peak concentrations for each datalogging interval. An average measurement is necessary when calculating STEL or TWA concentrations but may not show high peaks if the concentration fluctuates rapidly. A shorter datalogging period will increase the resolution but also take up more memory.

I’ve referenced RAE equipment for this discussion, but it is applicable to other manufacturers’ equipment as well. Consult the documentation for your instrument so you can interpret what it is telling you.

For additional gas monitoring and detection tips, call us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

The Danger of Oil Sites

In April 2010 at approximately 9:00 p.m., in the remote community of Weeletka, Oklahoma, six young people aged 18 to 32 were socializing at a rural, unmanned oil and gas property when a cigarette or lighter likely ignited a blast that claimed the life of a 21 year old man. Based on witness interviews the explosion occurred when the victim opened the hatch on one of the four petroleum storage tanks present on site that contained approximately 160 barrels of light crude oil. The explosion occurred about 10 minutes after they arrived on site. The group was drawn to the site when they saw the open gate to the normally unmanned property.   It was common for young people in this town to hang out in remote oil field properties, and they were largely unfamiliar with hazards associated with oil and gas.

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents  led the investigation. The CSB learned the site entrance was protected only by an unmarked gate which was routinely left open and unlocked. Aside from the gate, the property was not fenced, and no other protective measures were present warning the public of dangers associated with entering the site. The report also mentioned that the catwalk leading to the top of the tank was unsecured and readily accessible, and tank hatches had no mechanisms allowing them to be secured. Finally, it was possible that signage was destroyed in the fire, but eyewitness reported they saw no warning signs posted on or near the facility on the night of the incident.

And this is not the first time a tragedy like this has happened. A review of CSB records released in mid April indicate that 24 similar explosions and fires occurred at oil and gas production sites between 1983 and 2009 and of those accidents there were 42 fatalities and other related serious injuries. According to CSB records, all these fatalities occurred among teenagers and young adults under the age of 25, and in most cases, explosions were ignited by a cigarette, lighter or match.   

“No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Sites”

Interestingly enough, the tragic incident in Oklahoma occurred only one day after the release of a new CSB safety video called “No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Sites” (see below for video).  The segment was created to educate young people about the hazards of hanging out on oil and gas properties.  The 11 minute video, which can also be downloaded from the CSB website, is narrated by a young woman who describes the tragic deaths of two teenage boys killed in October 2009 when an oil tank located in a clearing in the woods near the home of one of the boys in rural Mississippi exploded, while the two boys were hanging out on site.  The powerful video is a timely tool that can be used to raise awareness of young people about the dangers associated with socializing on oil and gas properties and a reminder to just stay away from these sites.  It could also be used as an engaging safety moment or agenda topic at an employee safety meeting.

Be Diligent in Ensuring that Your Facilities Are Safe

Incidents, such as these, serve as a wake up call to the oil and gas industry. We need to be diligent in ensuring our facilities are secured against unauthorized entry and warning signs are adequately posted. When possible barriers and other security measures should also be employed. An active safety audit and inspection program is critical in keeping management abreast on the safety and security status of our facilities.

As an industry, we should be concerned about these on going incidents across the country and do what we can to prevent them from happening. Tragedies, like these, give us incentive to re-examine our facilities both urban and remote, with fresh eyes to ensure we are doing all we can to protect the public from dangers associated with these sites. We need to educate young people of the dangers of unauthorized entry. As there are no specific federal standards or industry guidance for security at oil and gas sites, it is our obligation and commitment to do what it takes to get the job done right by taking control: secure, fence and warn!

The OSHA Challenge Program, First Steps to the VPP Star

By Chuck Gibson, VPP Manager, Total Safety

For increased occupational health and safety, go Total Safety.Preparing for and attaining certification in the OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) can sometimes seem to be a confusing and overwhelming task, particularly for companies that do not have mature safety and health management systems already in place. To help, OSHA has developed a program for companies that are interested in improving their safety and health management systems and potentially participating in VPP, but may need assistance in understanding and meeting VPP requirements. The Challenge Program provides a comprehensive self-paced, three-stage roadmap that leads to improved safety and health management systems and preparation for VPP application.

Challenge is open to General Industry and Construction employers (determined by SIC/NAICS code) in both public and private sectors under OSHA federal jurisdiction. The Program is facilitated by OSHA-designated Administrators who may be corporations, nonprofit organizations or federal agencies. The Administrators act as the primary contact between OSHA and the Challenge Participant, and guide the Participant through the program stages. At the completion of each stage, the Administrator will review the participant’s progress and authorize advancement to the next stage.  OSHA will formally recognize progression from stage to stage and issue a certificate of graduation upon completion of Stage III. Provided it meets basic criteria, such as mishap rates and citation history, an organization should be ready to submit a VPP application following graduation, and may be considered for expedited review for certification.

To become a Challenge Participate, a candidate organization must first affiliate with an Administrator. A list of Administrators is available on the OSHA website or by calling your local OSHA office. The candidate organization completes an application and statement of commitment that is reviewed by OSHA, and upon acceptance, is designated an OSHA Challenge Participant. The Participant then proceeds through three progressive stages of safety and health program improvement with specific action and outcome requirements related to the VPP elements; management leadership and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training. As the Participant organization works through the stages, it will change from being reactive to proactive in identifying and controlling hazards. Additionally, it will progress in knowledge of and compliance with OSHA standards, develop an improved workplace safety culture, have improved documentation, increase safety and health activities, and show improvements in injury and illness rates. Documentation of achievements is required and progress is tracked on an electronic spreadsheet that provides color-coded status on each action and outcome item and a percentage completion level for the current stage.

The beauty of Challenge is the step by step guidance and direction it provides for improving a safety and health management system. The required actions and outcomes for each sub-element in each stage eliminate the guesswork of “what do I do next” for Participants. The status tracking sheet provides a visual and easy to understand tool to chart program progress. Even for organizations that consider their safety and health management systems more mature, Challenge tools and guidelines provide utility in confirming that necessary program elements are in place and functioning effectively. Go online and look at the list of Challenge Participants. It should come as no surprise that the list includes OSHA regional and area offices that are striving to become VPP certified themselves. So follow the lead of the experts. If you think your organization is not quite ready for VPP don’t be troubled – take the OSHA Challenge and travel the road to improved safety and health.

For more ideas on ways to increase occupational health and safety in your workplace, call us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Hydrogen Sulfide: What’s the Stink?

By Mandy Sunderland, Industrial Hygiene Specialist, Total Safety

For the best in H2S Protection Services & Equipment, go Total Safety.In response to concerns over new toxicological data on the effects of chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide (H2S), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has voted to substantially reduce their recommended exposure limits for H2S. They have dropped their 8 hour time weighted average Threshold Limit Value (TLV-TWA8) for H2S from 10 ppm to 1 ppm, and their Short Term Exposure Limit (TLV-STEL) from 15 ppm to 5 ppm. Unfortunately, most H2S measurement and monitoring equipment currently available for use in the workplace isn’t accurate in the 1 ppm range.  Confirming compliance with the new standards will be a challenge for health and safety practitioners.

ACGIH TLV’s reflects industry consensus on the level of exposure a typical worker can experience without unreasonable risk of disease or injury. Unlike Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL’s) set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), TLV’s are voluntary standards and not enforceable by law. However, most employers adopt them in order to help ensure maximum protection of employees in the workplace. 

So what’s the stink about H2S?

Hydrogen sulfide is an extremely toxic and irritating gas. It has a strong odor of rotten eggs at low concentrations, but deadens the sense of smell at higher concentrations, which can mask its presence. Inhalation of 500-1000 ppm will cause rapid unconsciousness and death through respiratory paralysis and asphyxiation. Inhalation of low concentrations may cause headache, dizziness and upset stomach. Even at concentrations under 5 ppm, metabolic changes and increased anxiety have been reported in people who are exercising.

Three primary types of instruments are used to detect and monitor H2S exposures: fixed area detectors, portable area detectors, and personal detectors. Fixed area detectors alert operators to leaks and releases in the workplace and have typically been set to alarm at concentrations of 10 to 15 ppm. Portable area detectors are used to test confined spaces and general work areas to confirm elevated levels of H2S are not present. Personal detectors are worn by employees and will sound an audible alarm at levels of 10 to 15 ppm.  A wide variety of reliable and well regarded H2S detectors which measure and alarm in the 10 ppm range are available to industry.  However, there is limited availability of detectors which operate accurately in the 1 ppm range.

In November 2009, in anticipation of the new ACGIH reduced exposure limits for H2S, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) completed an extensive report entitled a Feasibility Study on Responding to a Lower Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure Limit for Workers.  This study identified some limited options for commercially available equipment that measure H2S to 1 ppm.  While this measurement technology exists, not all of it is feasible for use in the workplace, or considered to be consistently sensitive enough to measure concentrations at 1 ppm.   Validated methods listed in the study include a Colorimetric Detector Tube system to measure TLV-TWA8 and Electrochemical Sensor Meters for use as personal detectors.  Of the six portable detectors listed, only two are feasible for use in the workplace. Gold Film detectors appeared promising, but are not suitable for use in hazardous locations.

So where does that leave the safety and health practitioner?  Most of us will have to continue to rely on current detector technology which may not provide reliable and accurate measurements at the new TLV’s while we wait for innovations from manufacturers and suppliers.  On the practical side, if there are known concentrations of H2S in the workplace, we can take extra precautions to minimize worker exposures by installing engineering controls and taking prompt action in response to leaks and alarms.  Common sense and good judgment, combined with smart use of existing technology, will enable us to continue to provide adequate protection to the workforce until the next generation of H2S detection and monitoring equipment arrives.

For more information on Total Safety and how we can equip your company with the best in H2S protection and safety services, give us a call at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety Acquires Houston 2-Way Radio

March 12, 2010

Total Safety, the global leader of integrated industrial safety services and equipment, brought Houston 2-Way Radio (“H2WR”) into the growing Total Safety family.  H2WR is a leading supplier of quality radio communications products and services in the greater Houston area.  This acquisition allows Total Safety to further expand and enhance our existing communications line of business throughout North America.

H2WR’s customer base currently encompasses a variety of industries including those like healthcare where we only have a limited presence and local and federal government agencies.  Their extensive communications service offerings will also strategically provide a greater capacity to support our existing clients.

Founded in 1990, H2WR currently employs over 32 employees involved in the sales, service and rental of radio communications products.  H2WR is an Authorized Motorola 2-Way Radio Dealer, Authorized Motorola Federal Agent, Authorized Motorola State and Local Government Manufacturer’s Representative and Authorized Motorola Service Shop (MSS).  Motorola is the major supplier of equipment, parts and support, but H2WR is also staffed and trained to repair other major brands.

For more information on how Total Safety can equip your company with two-way radios and other communication devices and services, give us a call at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety is Listed as Top 21 – HBJ Houston-Area Oilfield Equipment Supply & Service Companies

September 4, 2009

Total Safety was ranked No. 21 in the Houston Busines Journal’s list of the top Houston-Area Oilfield Equipment Supply and Services Companies, based on 2008 total gross revenue.

Find out how Total Safety’s entire line of industrial safety services & equipment can benefit your company by calling us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety Promotes Paul Tyree to SVP, North America

Houston – September 3, 2009

Paul Tyree has been promoted to Senior Vice President, North America for Total Safety.  Consistent with the company’s strategy to expand into new geographic markets, he will be leading the effort to develop Total Safety’s presence in Mexico and Canada while continuing to expand market reach in the US. 

“Paul has done an outstanding job of developing our service capabilities and market leadership in the US, and I am confident we will see similar results under his direction in this role,” said David E. Fanta, CEO.

Paul joined Total Safety in 1996 and has served in various sales and operations roles.  Most recently, Paul was responsible for the company’s US business.

Find out more information about Total safety and our entire line of industrial safety services and equipment by calling 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety Enters Industrial Hygiene Services Business

Houston – August 25, 2009

Total Safety, the global leader of integrated industrial safety services and equipment, is expanding into Industrial Hygiene Services and will provide comprehensive solutions for exposure monitoring, hazard and risk assessments, respiratory protection programs, ergonomic assessments, indoor air quality, asbestos, and lead and mold monitoring. In addition, Richard Matherne, CIH, has joined Total Safety as Manager of Industrial Hygiene Services. Richard has over 30 years experience as a Certified Industrial Hygienist in the petrochemical industry.

“We are excited to enter this new line of business, and Richard’s experience and knowledge will ensure we will continue to meet the needs of our customers,” said Paul Tyree, Vice President of US Operations.

Total Safety also offers customized safety services built around each customer’s specific requirements, including:

Learn more about Total Safety’s entire line of industrial safety services & equipment by calling us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety Announces SVP, Eastern Hemisphere Appointment

Houston – August 13, 2009

Robert Limb, a 30 year professional in the energy industry, has joined Total Safety as Senior Vice President, Eastern Hemisphere.  He will be responsible for all operations and sales efforts in the hemisphere. 

Having worked in both the upstream and downstream energy industry with operator and service company experience, Robert has a proven track record of successful international business development. 

“Robert’s industry knowledge and leadership will further strengthen the company’s position to aggressively grow our international presence and service offering in key markets,” said David E. Fanta, CEO.

Robert joins Total Safety from Aibel Group Holdings, a division of Aibel Group Ltd.  Previously, he held various senior operational and sales positions with Baker Hughes Inc.

For more information on Total Safety or any of our industrial safety services and equipment, call us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!

Total Safety Releases All New 2009 – 2010 Products & Services Catalog

Houston – July 27, 2009

Total Safety, the global leader of integrated industrial safety services and equipment, announces the release of its new products and services catalog. This nearly 200-page, full-color catalog showcases thousands of safety products, equipment and safety services gathered from around the globe.

State-of-the-Art Safety Equipment

“The goal of this publication was not only to feature top brand products and services, but to provide a comprehensive guide for all the latest in cutting-edge safety services and equipment. Total Safety’s catalog represents the world’s best safety products all in one centralized place to make our customers’ jobs easier and to keep them safer,” said Charles Ripoll, Total Safety Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development.

Each of the seven main sections features products and services that are for rent and/or direct purchase. The seven sections include:

“While the catalog is very in-depth with an extensive listing of products and services, the catalog is easy to read which makes ordering very simple. As an added feature, we included industry resource guides to help customers make educated decisions about the appropriate safety equipment they’ll need for their particular requirements,” said Paul Tyree, Total Safety Vice President U.S. Operations.

Catalogs can be ordered by calling 888-448-6825 or online at

Online Catalog

Scheduled to debut in September, Total Safety is launching an e-commerce version of the catalog where products and services will also be available online for purchase or rent.

“We understand that different customers want different options when it comes to ordering their safety products and services. Our e-commerce catalog will feature all the services our customers expect in a way that’s perhaps more convenient for them,” said Ripoll.

Find out more about how Total Safety can provide your company with a complete line of industrial safety services & equipment by calling us at 888.44.TOTAL.

Total Safety – The Best Minds in the Business!