Natural gas is a valuable part of the energy market, as it provides customers with a clean-burning fuel that leaves no harmful residue. Despite its importance to consumers, natural gas can be potentially dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. These precautions do not just apply to residential customers; due to its commonality, commercial and industrial occupancies also rely on natural gas. Luckily, there are several things customers of all types can be aware of to help mitigate the risk involved.
One of the primary dangers when dealing with natural gas is carbon monoxide. An odorless, colorless gas, carbon monoxide is not a natural by-product of natural gas burning, as it typically burns clean and leaves no harmful residue. However, when there is a problem with the source of the burning itself, it is entirely possible for the burning process to produce harmful by-products, among them carbon monoxide. One of the most common sources of a carbon monoxide leak in a building is a malfunctioning furnace. If the furnace is not burning the gas cleanly, the result can be a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide in the building. In a confined space, carbon monoxide can easily displace the natural oxygen and concentrate to lethal levels. Even at lower concentrations, carbon monoxide can still cause sickness in humans.
Clearly, carbon monoxide is a potential issue that must be taken very seriously. However, despite the threat that it can pose, it is very easy for building owners to take precautionary measures to protect themselves and others. The most basic and significant element is for the building to have functional carbon monoxide detectors. When carbon monoxide builds up to dangerous levels, an alarm is activated, similar to a fire alarm. As it is invisible and has no smell, carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a detector, making their use imperative. When the alarm sounds, the building should be evacuated immediately, and the fire department contacted. Under no circumstances should civilians attempt to investigate the issue for themselves. However, building occupants can play their part as well by ensuring that the alarms themselves are maintained. Regular battery replacements and tests can ensure that the system is working properly, and will be ready when it is needed in an emergency situation.
The second major risk one deals with when working with natural gas is an explosion hazard. As a combustible gas, natural gas can be explosive when mixed with air in a suitable concentration. Luckily, the range of this concentration is relatively narrow, meaning that a particular concentration of gas must be achieved for an explosion to be possible. However, the possibility alone necessitates precautions are taken to ensure safety for all. Similar to the issue with carbon monoxide, the biggest risk of an explosion hazard with a gas leak inside a confined space, like a building. The most common cause of such a leak would be a ruptured gas line, which could not be repaired by maintenance immediately available to most business owners. As a result, efforts should be focused on evacuation, rather than attempting to mitigate the source of the leak.
Fortunately, natural gas itself is much easier to detect than carbon monoxide. While it is naturally odorless, sulfur is added to natural gas to give it a strong smell, similar to rotting eggs. When this smell is detected, the building should be evacuated immediately, and both the fire department and utility company notified. It is important for all building occupants to be familiar with evacuation procedures.
In all, while natural gas is safe, efficient, and reliable, there are several risks that come along with working with a combustible gas. There are a few important safety procedures that everyone can follow to minimize the risk of these potential dangers, and contribute to a safer workplace for everyone.
The writer, Thomas Quinn, is highly experienced in handling natural gas owing to his experiences as a volunteer firefighter. For companies who need to account for natural gas or other safety hazards, he highly recommends turning to software and consulting provided at www.ecompliance.com. You can learn more about Thomas on Google+.