August 18, 2022

NIOSH Advises Firefighters on Safe Use of Gas Detection Equipment

NIOSH has published a safety advisory targeted to firefighters responding to natural gas and propane incidents. The new document, titled “Understanding Multi-Gas Monitor Readings – The Importance of Knowing Your Equipment,” includes recommendations for properly using multi-gas monitors and interpreting data collected by these devices.

When responding to gas leaks and related incidents, firefighters can be exposed to low oxygen levels or dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other explosive gases and vapors. Multi-gas monitors assist firefighters in measuring gas levels and determining if concentrations exceed the lower explosive limit, or the minimum level at which explosions can occur. NIOSH’s document cautions that these devices may be less accurate on the scene of an incident because monitors may respond differently to gases encountered there compared to gases used for calibration. Damage from being dropped, dust blocking sensor inlets, and exposure to extreme environmental conditions may also cause monitors to become less accurate over time.

NIOSH recommends that multi-gas monitor users perform “bump” testing at the beginning of each shift to determine if monitors are functioning. Firefighters should also calibrate monitors at least monthly and replace them as needed, while following all manufacturer recommendations, as well as conduct regular hands-on training to ensure their proficiency in using multi-gas monitors. NIOSH encourages fire departments to partner with utility companies to better understand each other’s roles during a response to a natural gas or propane emergency.

A PDF of the new document may be downloaded from NIOSH’s website.