Gas Hazards, Safety and Misconceptions in the Pulp and Paper Industry

Gas Hazards, Safety and Misconceptions in the Pulp and Paper Industry

Bill Marencel | Monday, April 5, 2021

In the pulp and paper industry, you face risks every day. These risks can include noise hazards, massive pulpwood loads sliding or falling, and the challenges associated with operating mechanical equipment. You also encounter many hidden dangers – in the form of gas hazards and exposure to dangerous chemical substances. It’s important to have a safety plan in place so that you are better aware of the dangers you face.

GAS HAZARDS IN THE PULP AND PAPER INDUSTRY

There are a number of issues that can arise when working in pulp and paper mills. You may face danger from chemical spills, mechanical errors, or human error. On top of this, processes in the pulp and paper industry are known to put you at risk of exposure to hazardous gases, including:

  • Hydrogen sulfide (H2S): You can find H2S in just about every aspect of pulp and paper production. Operations like chipping, digester paper, liquor recovery and production, pulp machines and presses and wastewater treatment can produce this deadly gas.
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2): This gas can release during the pulping process or during the burning of fossil fuels. Digesters and liquor recovery units are just some of the processes that could produce very dangerous levels of this gas.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO): This gas may be present at the power plant, recovery boilers, or any of the operations where byproducts are heated to provide process heat or reduce the liquid composition in the pulp.
  • Chlorine (CI2) and Chlorine dioxide (CIO2): Workers in the pulp and paper industry have long used chlorine and chlorine dioxide to bleach paper and remove wood fibers that yellow the paper. These gases are especially dangerous due to the fact that they may explode from a chemical reaction. Exposure to these gases also causes breathing problems in workers.

MISCONCEPTIONS AND CONCERNS

Gas hazards in general will never go away in this industry, because gases are inherent to the manufacturing process. You might have concerns over gas hazards you may encounter, confined space scenarios, or the functionality of the gas monitors themselves.

When it comes to gas detection in the pulp and paper industry, some gas hazards are more common than others. Specifically, H2S is created during the digester process that pressure cooks wood chips with chemicals to create pulp. You can take steps to minimize and contain the risk, such as using personal gas monitors, using area monitors and maintaining digesters and recovery boilers so that they continue to function safely without releasing additional gases.

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Confined space scenarios are also common in the pulp and paper industry, where you face an element of the unknown – no two confined spaces are exactly alike. Inside paper mills or factories, you may come across confined spaces inside of storage chests, dryer cans, water chests and tanks, pulper vats and more. Confined spaces can be extremely dangerous – you may face low oxygen levels, combustible gases, or other toxic substances.

It’s important that there’s a solution for monitoring gas hazards in confined spaces, often through connectivity. Linking workers through safety tools won’t eliminate the gas hazards, but workers can better monitor them through connected safety. When your monitors “talk” to each other and form an immediate social safety network, you and other workers in your group know the status of one another right on your monitor screens. This allows both workers and safety managers to stay in the know and make informed decisions on the job, and the right gas monitors can help. The Ventis® Pro5 can detect many gases commonly found across the pulp and paper industry and in confined spaces. This monitor also gives you the power to manage safety through wireless connectivity via cellular, wi-fi, satellite, or to other workers on-site through LENS® Wireless.

To remove the burden of maintaining gas monitors, consider iNet® Exchange, a subscription-based service that remotely monitors the maintenance of your fleet of gas detectors and proactively sends you a new monitor before your current one goes bad. This eliminates worker downtime, increases productivity and saves money by eliminating the need to have a safety stock of monitors on hand.

Pulp and paper companies should also be augmenting their gas detection program with community-scale dynamic plume modeling. SAFER One™ dynamic plume modeling software shows exactly where a gas release is coming from and when it’s going to hit certain areas, including local communities. Using this software allows mills to pinpoint gas release origin, size and concentration. This will help environmental workers determine when to call emergency teams, where to shelter workers, whether an evacuation is necessary and what additional threats may pose hazards.

PULP AND PAPER SOLUTIONS

The important thing is using and maintaining your gas monitor so you know when there are hazardous gases nearby – and you can do something about it.  Have a safety plan in place, know what potential hazards you may face, and continue to monitor. The technology exists to protect pulp and paper workers from deadly gas hazards and it’s time to start using it.

 

Bill Marencel is a national account manager at Industrial Scientific.