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The Common Mistakes of Gas Monitoring and Detection

May 15, 2024
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Confined spaces are a common fixture of many work environments, but they’re also dangerous, especially when you add gas to the equation. It’s always important to monitor a workplace for harmful gases, but the already dangerous conditions of a confined space add another level of urgency to the matter. Gas monitoring mistakes can be fatal, especially with confined space risks already posing a threat to worker safety.

SafeWork NSW defines a confined space as an enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not designed to be occupied by a person, is not designed to be at normal atmospheric pressure with any person in the space, and is likely to pose a risk to health and safety from unsafe oxygen levels, contaminants, engulfment etc.

From underground sewers to stormwater systems, grease traps to tanks, vats and pits, confined spaces are everywhere in the world of work. In environments such as pipelines, furnaces, silos, tanks and vessels, gases are a regular hazard. Many gases, such as carbon monoxide, can’t be smelt, seen or tasted and require special equipment to detect.

If your business requires employees to work in confined spaces, a confined space standby officer needs to be present to monitor the oxygen levels. Anyone working in a confined space area also needs to have the right entry permits and training.

SSTC can assess your premises' confined space risk, supply your confined space safety and gas detection equipment, and provide dedicated confined space standby officers.

Confined spaces typically have poor ventilation, so it doesn’t take long for harmful gases to cause extreme damage, including choking, unconsciousness, injury, death, fire or explosion. Gas detection mistakes can cost you and your business dearly. 

Fortunately, SSTC can help you prevent problems before they occur.

This article is the SSTC's guide to common gas monitoring mistakes and how to avoid them.

Common Mistakes with Gas Detection and Monitoring

Lacking knowledge of Workplace Health and Safety Regulations

Safety standards begin with understanding the workplace health and safety regulations laid out by Safe Work Australia. It’s important to know the policies and procedures for your industry and have a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) in place to follow. Without an SWMS, you increase your chances of gas monitoring mistakes occurring.

Relying only on your senses

Many dangerous gases are odourless and tasteless. Even the more pungent varieties, such as the “rotten egg” odour of hydrogen sulphide, are often only perceptible at very low levels. However, the more you’re exposed, the less you can smell them. Often, the only way to detect poisonous gases is with an instrument specifically designed to do so.

Not performing a pre-entry test

One of the most dangerous gas monitoring mistakes you can make is not performing (or incorrectly performing) a pre-entry test. A pre-entry test provides a reading of the confined space’s oxygen content, potential air contaminants and flammable vapours and gases. Dangerously low levels of oxygen can compromise the efficiency of your gas monitors, further endangering workers.

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Neglecting training

All workers entering a confined space must use personal protective equipment (PPE) and be trained in the work being undertaken, the potential hazards of the space, and all control measures. Proper training is a legislative requirement and can provide a much-needed refresher to workers who have been on the job for a while and might be starting to let safety standards slip.  

Not knowing what kinds of gases may be present

Being aware of which gases are likely to potentially lurk in your confined space is vital to choosing the right kind of gas monitor.

Not having an emergency plan

Gas detection mistakes and accidents can occur despite your best efforts. Workplaces that lack safety procedures for confined spaces are more likely to suffer confined space fatalities (inadequate training is another common factor). Not having a rational and well-thought-out plan puts both workers and would-be rescuers at increased risk.

Risks Involved With Gas Detection and Monitoring When Mistakes Occur

Some of the most tangible and deadly dangers of gas monitoring mistakes include:


Flammable gases can ignite when they come in contact with ignition sources like open flames and electrical equipment. Limited ventilation adds to the risk.


Gases that are confined to a small space can significantly increase in concentration. If the concentration of a gas like propane or methane reaches a certain level in a confined space, it can create the conditions for an explosion.

Exposure to Contaminants

Inhaling toxic gases can cause death from immediate causes like asphyxiation or chronic respiratory conditions later in time.  

How to Minimise Hazards with Gas Detection and Monitoring

Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple measures to reduce the risk of gas monitoring mistakes. Some steps you can take to minimise hazards include:

Plan in advance and conduct assessments

Good planning is essential. Before anyone enters the confined space, it’s important to complete a risk assessment and a hazard assessment, identify the most appropriate personal protective equipment for workers and select capable, adequately trained workers for the job.

Test the atmosphere

No matter the kind of worksite you’re running, it’s essential to conduct a pre-entry test with a confined space monitor before you let anyone enter. It’s also good practice—and often mandatory—to continue to monitor the inside of the enclosed space throughout the job.

Enable communication between the worker and the attendant

Inside a tight space, the atmosphere can change quickly, and the employee needs to promptly alert the attendant if anything goes wrong. The safest option is for the worker in the confined space to have a monitor that shares gas readings with the attendant. Gas detectors that automatically share gas readings and alarms let rescuers know what kinds of hazards they’re dealing with and what to do about them. A rescuer who goes into a confined space unaware and unprepared is in danger of facing the same fate as the worker they’re attempting to rescue.

Professional Gas Detection and Monitoring with SSTC

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Trusted by the biggest construction companies in Australia, SSTC has the skills, training and equipment to provide comprehensive gas detection and monitoring services.

Our confined space standby officers are trained in both first aid and in freeing gas from a confined space in preparation for accessing the area.  We can supply all the equipment you need to enter and exit a confined space safely, including tripods, full arrests, breathing apparatus, harnesses and radio communication. We also have equipment for gas detection and monitoring, including five gas monitors that can detect over 100 VOC gases.

We offer end-to-end confined space management within your policies and procedures that includes isolations, issuing of permits, documentation, confined space set-up and an emergency response team. We’ll analyse and evaluate the confined space risks in your workplace and document the risks and hazards, reducing the likelihood that gas monitoring mistakes will occur. We’ll spot hazards and risks before they become a problem, document rules and regulations and any control measures required and formulate a solid emergency plan.
With 25+ years of combined experience, SSTC offers competitive rates, a disciplined approach, and an unwavering commitment to strong safety standards. To prevent gas monitoring mistakes from causing problems for your project, contact SSTC for a free quote.

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