Five things to know about Ammonia detection

1. How dangerous are ammonia leaks?

Consequences from ammonia leaks can range from long term injury to fatality. A review of media reported incidents by the European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee (EFCTC) reported that over a 6 year period ammonia leaks cause 140 injuries and 14 deaths per year. Roughly half of these accidents occurred in the meat, food processing and cool store industries.

2. What are the consequences to my business?

Increased enforcement of health and safety legislation around the world means operators are being fined for any harmful release of toxic/ flammable gas. Specifically, the Workplace Health and Safety act 2011 (Aus) and Health and Safety at Work (NZ) Act make directors and executive officers responsible for workplace health and safety. This means greater exposure to litigation which as a result has seen an increase in insurance premiums. Corporate reputation is also at stake.

3. At what level does ammonia become harmful?

Worksafe NZ recommends a maximum long term exposure to Ammonia of 25 ppm. Given that field testing of PIL ammonia detectors shows an average background level of ~5-10 ppm in cold store and meat processing engine rooms it’s important to recognise the tight margin for error. NIOSH “Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.” lists the following exposure limits-
TWA (Time Weighted Average): 25 ppm
STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit): 35 ppm
IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life & Health): 300 ppm
LEL (Lower Explosive Limit): 15%

4. What are the challenges faced by current ammonia detection solutions

There are three main challenges faced by current ammonia detection solutions.
1. Prone to false alarm Exposure to ambient levels of ammonia and other volatile gases can increase sensitivity of sensors. This in turn makes it more likely to initiate an alarm on lower than expected levels of ammonia
2. Prone to desensitization Upon exposure to toxic gases sensors become decalibrated. It’s not unusual for sensor maintenance to be required quarterly or in less demanding environments bi-annually. This maintenance results in an ongoing cost and can be an inconvenience to the operation.
3. Dead sensors If a sensor is exposed to enough ammonia, or similar toxic gas, the sensor will be rendered dead. Replacing sensors is costly and will eat into capital expenditure.

5. How does PIL’s patented laser spectroscopy detection work?

Every gas has a unique wavelength signature and PIL’s detectors use a gas specific laser diode to identify and measure that signature. With no electrochemical components, there is no need to calibrate the device, no need to replace sensors and there are no false alarms.