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In our second segment regarding air contamination, we’ll explore the different options available for air testing for SCBA cylinders. They include:

  1. Air Test Sample Kits

  2. On-site Air Sampling

  3. Sample Cylinders

 

Air Test Kits

Air test kits provide the fastest, most efficient solution to air testing. The kits are purchased through a certified laboratory (we use Tri Air Testing) and typically range between $500 and $600. While this option has a higher price tag upfront, the longevity of the kits out-weigh the initial expenditure. With several compressors, the test kits pay for themselves within 1-2 years. TRI also offers loaner kits.

Upon receiving the kit, you'll find find easy-to-follow instructions on how to take the sample. Once the sample has been taken, it’s placed in a pre-labelled envelope to send it to the laboratory.  Result times vary based on the laboratory. Some are as fast as 24-48 hours, while others take over a week (this should be considered when choosing a laboratory.)

 

Pros

  • Easy to perform samples
  • Long-term value
  • Fast results
  • Samples performed by firefighters

Cons

  • Possible false failures due to poor sample taking
  • Higher upfront cost
  • Possibility for incorrect samples if not performed correctly
  •  

On-site Air Sampling

Some fire departments opt to have their air sampled on-site by a representative of a laboratory or compressor manufacturer. This option is often used by departments that want to reduce their responsibilities/liabilities. This option is beneficial to departments that have high turnover and don’t want to retrain new firefighters on air sampling.

Pros

  • Reduces the responsibilities of the firefighters
  • Reduces false failures due to poor air sampling practices
  • Smaller upfront cost
  • Reduces liability placed on the fire department

Cons

  • Times spent on scheduling/coordinating site visits
  • Longer wait time on results
  • Higher long-term cost

Sample Cylinders

A third option is to utilize a sample cylinder in which the sample is collected using the cylinder and the entire unit is mailed to be tested. This method is limiting because it only tests for gas, not oil or moisture. It also has a higher margin of failure as it runs the risk of having remnants of older gas or containments inside. This method has the added expenditure and risk of shipping hazardous material, not to mention the greater environmental impact of shipping an entire container versus an a test kit in an envelope.

Pros

  • Cheaper short-term
  • Easy sampling process

Cons

  • Does not test for oil or moisture
  • Higher margin of failure
  • Expensive/extra effort to ship

 

How to Choose a Laboratory for Testing?

The most important factor is whether or not the laboratory is accredited. The two leading accreditation boards are American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA.) What does an accreditation guarantee?

  • A Trained and Reliable Staff
  • Certified Testing Methods
  • Properly Maintained Equipment
  • A Safe and Secure Testing Environment
  • Compliancy with NFPA Guidelines

 

Why is this important?

  • Minimizes False Pass/Failures
  • Saves Money/Time from False Failures
  • Proper Documentations and Certifications
  • Reliable Staff to Answer Questions

Conclusion

Hopefully by evaluating the pros and cons on different air sample methods, we've given you some tools to better determine which route best serves the needs of your department - whether it's short or long-term saving, convenience or liability. 

AOS provides air sample kits upon request when we service compressors, which also includes a demonstration of how to use this them.  SO if you’re still unsure about which method you want to use, feel free to contact us or ask your compressor service provider.

 

Next Up: how to take an air sample without messing up!