Auotclaves and Nitrogen. Why an Oxygen Monitor may be Required for Safety

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Courtesy of PureAire Monitoring Systems, Inc

In many industries, including aerospace, autoclaves play an important role in the manufacturing process. Key components of aerospace systems need to be put under an intense pressure and temperature during their formation; at present, an autoclave offers the best and safest way to do this. However, the manufacturing process usually uses nitrogen to create high levels of pressure in the system and to sweep away off-gases created by the composite curing process. If a component malfunctions, this nitrogen could escape into the workroom and pose a health hazard. Learn more about how autoclaves utilize nitrogen and how an oxygen monitor may be required for employee safety. 

Autoclaves and Nitrogen: Nitrogen's Role in Aerospace Manufacturing

When composite parts are created and cured, the pressure in the autoclave environment puts them into a situation where they become highly flammable due to increased pressure and temperature inside the autoclave. 

Once cured, these parts are safe and do not pose a fire risk. However, during the curing process they could combust if the right conditions prevailed - namely, if oxygen were introduced. Nitrogen is favored for use in autoclaves since it is inexpensive to buy and is inert, thus will not catch fire. Nitrogen can safely remove these off-gases and reduce the risk of fire. However, the use of nitrogen in the autoclave brings about another set of challenges. Nitrogen must be kept in the autoclave and safely vented outside the room, since nitrogen creates an oxygen deficient environment when it mixes with pure O2. 

Since there is a safety concern with autoclaves, they are highly regulated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) code. The good news is, the pressure valves used on autoclaves are very safe, thanks to the conservative ASME guidelines. Every autoclave in use today has multiple safety valves, which ensure that pressure inside can be safely released. 

Even though autoclaves are subject to strict regulations, have built-in safety redundancies, and are generally considered to be very safe, accidents can still occur. One small step you can take to protect workers and prevent a tragedy from occurring is to invest in an oxygen deficiency monitor. 

How an O2 Monitor Keeps Workers Safe

If the nitrogen were to escape from the autoclave during the manufacturing process, it could actually deplete oxygen levels in the room. When oxygen levels go down, workers can have a difficult time getting enough air to breathe and may become dizzy or lightheaded as a result. Nitrogen has no odor or color, so these minor physical symptoms are the only clue staff may have that there is something wrong.

As nitrogen escapes it creates an oxygen deficient environment. When there is not enough oxygen to breath, your employees can suffocate and die in a worst case scenario.  

To keep your employees safe, you must make sure that all equipment is working properly by scheduling regular autoclave inspections and performing routine maintenance as scheduled. Additionally, invest in oxygen monitors in any area where you use autoclaves. These O2 monitors offer a simple, cost-effective way to keep track of oxygen levels in the room 24/7. 

An oxygen sensor or O2 monitor takes regular readings of the oxygen levels in the room. When oxygen levels are within the normal range, the monitor continued to function. If oxygen levels fall below the safest acceptable level, the monitor lets off an alarm that tells staff that there is a problem. Employees can then exit the room and avoid being exposed to an oxygen deficient environment and suffering grave and potentially fatal health problems. 

PureAire's oxygen sensors are guaranteed to last for a period of 10 years, thanks to their hardy zirconium construction. Whereas other types of oxygen deficiency monitors require regular calibration and maintenance, our products are reliable, guaranteed to perform over a test of time, and do not require staff maintenance. 

When you want the best in oxygen monitoring to keep your employees safe, look to PureAire, which has more than 15 years of experience creating O2 monitors. Visit our website, www.pureairemonitoring.com, or email us at info@pureaire.net for more information on how oxygen monitors can protect employee safety. 

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