RESOURCE

August 2014
 

Ask Technical

Q:

Our employees will be using alcohol-based chemicals to clean the inside of a confined space that contains noncombustible corn powder. What type of air-monitoring meter should we use to ensure that we are properly monitoring the space?

A:

Are you sure the corn powder is noncombustible? Keep in mind that most organic dusts are combustible.

If the powder is noncombustible, then you need to ensure that the only hazard is from the alcohol-based cleaners. Be certain there are no other sources of atmospheric hazards in the space (such as water, rust, or decaying material) and there are no hazards outside the space that can affect the interior (such as the exhaust from combustion engines).

If the only hazard is from alcohol-based cleaners, then you may need to monitor only the lower explosive limit (LEL). Isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol have "immediately dangerous to life and health" (IDLH) limits that are triggered at 10 percent of the LEL. If the alcohol your product uses has a lower explosive limit that has an IDLH level below the 10 percent LEL limit, you need to monitor for that substance. If that is the case, talk to your supplier to see if there is a sensor available for the meter you use.

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