What is Oxygen Deficiency?

If not properly monitored, injury or death caused by oxygen deficiency is a common hazard in the petrochemical and refining industries, as well as in confined spaces.

Under normal atmospheric pressure conditions, humans typically breathe air that is 20.9 percent oxygen by volume, according to EHS Today. When the concentration of oxygen decreases by as little as 1 to 2 percent, personnel can begin to immediately experience the effects – such as increased heart rate and respiration, blue lips, impaired judgement, fainting, unconsciousness, and death, in major cases. 

What is Oxygen Deficiency? - Otis Instruments

There are numerous causes of oxygen deficiency, including:

  • Leaking materials from storage tanks, natural gas lines and process valves that displace oxygen in poorly ventilated areas or confined spaces
  • Decomposing matter, like animal, human or plant waste, produces methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that displaces oxygen
  • Corrosion, such as rust, can consume oxygen
  • Fermentation or other forms of oxidation will displace oxygen and pose a hazard 

Oxygen deficiency often occurs in confined spaces. Confined spaces may include manholes, sewers, boilers, silos, vessels, vats, pipelines, storage tanks, and underground units. These areas prohibit natural ventilation, are potential sources of gas generation, and can prevent gases from escaping to cause a hazardous atmosphere. 

If a work area isn’t properly ventilated or hazardous materials are in constant use, there is high potential for oxygen-deficient or toxic gas conditions that could harm personnel. Combustible and toxic gases combined with a lack of oxygen are the cause of most confined space accidents.

Gas detection and monitoring equipment can help prevent oxygen deficiency, toxic or combustible gas, and confined space accidents. At Otis Instruments, our innovative, wired and WireFree products are designed to improve the safety of your plant or facility, with their customization capabilities and advanced integrated features.

To learn more about our products, contact our team today.