|The danger associated with carbon dioxide (CO2) in the drinks, brewing and wine industry is well known. This gas is toxic, but the nature of the threat it poses is not always fully understood. People die needlessly every year in tragic and CO2 completely avoidable accidents. Use of gas protection devices designed to detect CO2 is necessary to protect human life. This issue should be at the top of the agenda for companies within the food and drinks industry.
Carbon dioxide is ubiquitous through-out the drinks industry, including carbonated soft drinks, wines and beer. Carbonation of soft drinks can occur at many points along the production and logistics process, from the bottling process or the point of sale at a consumer outlet. The danger is often increased by the nature of the cellars and storerooms where gas cylinders are located.
CO2 is heavier than air. It is a hazard throughout the manufacturing process, right through to packaging and bottling and even to the bars and eating establishments where the drinks are served. If CO2 escapes, it will tend to sink to the floor, where it can form deadly, invisible pockets. It collects in cellars and at the bottom of containers and confined spaces, such as tanks and silos.
CO2 is extremely hazardous and can kill in two ways: By displacing oxygen, leading to rapid asphyxiation. Asphyxiation can be caused by any gas displacing oxygen, leaving no oxygen to breathe in the atmosphere. CO2 can also pose a danger as a toxin: exposure to as little as 0.5% by volume CO2 represents a toxic health hazard, while concentrations greater than 10% by volume can lead to death. Because CO2 is completely odourless and colourless, there may well be no indication of danger until it is too late.
So, in an environment where CO2 is used in many different ways and likely to be regularly encountered, even if at low levels, how can people be protected from being poisoned?
In order to ensure compliance with occupational exposure limits calculated as time-weighted-averages, it is necessary to monitor the levels of CO2 each worker is exposed to individually. To achieve this, personal monitors are provided to staff when they enter the risk zone of their workplace. Alternatively, fixed monitors can be installed in such places as cellars, cool-stores or production areas where CO2 is being stored. All detection equipment is to be calibrated on a 6-monthly basis by a certified service supplier.