Gas leaks – hazards, prevention and treatment
Natural gas is one of the world’s most commonly used fossil fuels. The fuel is widely used for heating, cooking, cutting, welding, and processing products. The use of natural gas can be found anywhere – from our workplaces to our homes.
While gas greatly benefits us, like all other sources of energy, it can be equally dangerous if used improperly. The HSE’s latest annual statistics reported a 33% rise in the number of gas explosions and fires linked to inflammable gas.
Although natural gas is considered safe for consumption, neglect and carelessness in use and maintenance can put your house or workplace at risk for a gas leak. When gas leaks occur, they pose a serious threat of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans and people.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that is a product of improper combustion. This improper combustion can occur from water boilers, furnaces, and unmaintained stoves or ovens. When people or animals are exposed to carbon monoxide gas, the gas molecules displace the oxygen in their bodies, leading to CO poisoning, which can cause asphyxiation and death.
Moreover, a gas leak can also produce fumes that ignite, resulting in an explosion and fire. Therefore, it is essential to take precautions if you regularly use natural gas in your home or workplace.
What precautions can you take?
Since exposure to carbon monoxide can be harmful to humans, animals, and their surroundings alike, we recommend installing a carbon monoxide (CO) detector wherever you use natural gas. This can prevent a safety hazard.
However, installing a detector alone isn’t enough. It is also essential for you to regularly check your CO detector for any defects and ensure its batteries are functioning well. Another important step in maintaining natural gas safety is to schedule CO testing regularly.
Nonetheless, accidents still occur, and they can happen to anyone of us, which is why it’s necessary to be aware of a gas leak that can be detected and what steps should be taken if you’re ever in a situation where there is a gas leak.
How can you detect a gas leak?
Check for a sulfur or rotten egg-like smell
Most natural gas companies put a four-smelling gas called mercaptan into natural gas to give it a distinctive smell, so it is easy to detect. This odor often smells like sulfur or like rotten eggs. So, if you ever smell such an odor in your home, check for a source of a gas leak or call a plumber immediately.
Listen out for a hissing or whistling noise
If a hissing or whistling sound is coming directly from your gas line, you could be experiencing a gas leak. However, a similar noise can result from your air conditioner due to a leaking valve or a damaged compressor. So, pay close attention to the source of the noise.
Use a gas leak detector
The best way to detect a gas leak is to install a gas leak detector in your home or workplace. This will always ensure the safety of you and your loved ones, as a detector can immediately detect a leak.
Symptoms of a gas leak
Excessive exposure to a gas leak can also have a physical effect on our health. Therefore, it is crucial to watch out for any of these symptoms:
- Ringing in your ears
- A reduced appetite
- Chest Pain
- Blistering or pale skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Flu-like symptoms
What to do if you smell gas
If you ever smell the odor of mercaptan, which is a rotten egg-like or sulfur smell, here are the steps you should take immediately:
Step 1: Turn off the gas valve
Step 2: Leave the building, home, or workplace of the suspected gas leak immediately
Step 3: Call the Emergency Services on 0800 111 999
Step 4: Warn nearby people (neighbours) of the suspected leak
What not to do if you smell gas
A suspected gas leak calls for great caution and care. If you suspect a gas leak in your home, area, or workplace, there are certain cautions you must take to avoid causing more harm to yourself and your surroundings.
Here are some steps you need to avoid if you smell natural gas:
- Don’t smoke or light any matches
- Don’t light any candles
- Don’t use any electrical equipment or lights that may create a spark
- Don’t use the lift
- Don’t raise or lower any windows
- Don’t use a phone in the area of the suspected leak
- Don’t open your garage door
Treatment of gas health hazards
Limited exposure to a gas leak is usually harmless. However, excessive exposure to CO gas can be toxic, which can result in damage to a person’s health. In this case, treatment exists and is required.
The most efficient treatment in case of CO poisoning is to breathe in pure oxygen. This increases a person’s blood oxygen levels and helps in eliminating CO gas from the blood. A health care professional will place an oxygen mask over your nose and mouth and ask you to breathe in.
This treatment is provided in severe cases of CO poisoning. A health care professional will temporarily place you in an oxygen chamber. An oxygen chamber has twice the pressure of normal air.
This treatment quickly increases a person’s blood oxygen levels.
Do not try treating CO poisoning yourself. If you ever suspect CO poisoning or notice any symptoms, go outdoors and call the emergency services. Do not try driving to the hospital yourself, as there is a chance of passing out.
Now you know all about the dangers, prevention and treatments of gas leaks
Since we use natural gas in our day-to-day lives for several purposes, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks, detection, symptoms, and treatment for a gas leak. And also to pass on the information to others to ensure complete safety at all times.
Author Shoaib Muhammad provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing. He occasionally writes articles for gas safety certs.
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Photo by KWON JUNHO on Unsplash