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New technology on track to vitalize confined space HazMat training

Written by Steven Pike on 25 Jun 2018

Teams operating in confined spaces within hazardous industrial buildings or process facilities understand all too well the importance of adhering to strict health and safety regulations.

The hazards that confined spaces present can be physical or atmospheric in nature - from the risks of asphyxiation or entrapment to exposure to extremes of temperature or the release of toxic chemicals.

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, on average two people die in the US every day as the result of incidents that take place within confined spaces.

In many cases too, it is not just the victim who is at risk, but the rescuer or first responder who may be unaware of the HazMat threat they are about to encounter.

Directives such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH), the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR), Atex and many others all have a pivotal role to play in ensuring safety.

But despite the emphasis on prevention, any potentially harmful chemical release, and specifically one that occurs within the context of a confined space, will require personnel who are skilled and confident to handle a variety of complex challenges.

With these challenges in mind, a new app-based multigas simulator technology, specifically designed for use in confined space settings, is scheduled for release in late summer 2018.

And the new system looks set to deliver an enhanced level of realism for industrial HazMat training scenarios.

Applying CWA technology to industrial HazMat training

The use of simulation technology for chemical warfare agent (CWA) training is already well established, with intelligent, computer-based training aids such as Argon Electronics' PlumeSIM and PlumeSIM-SMART systems currently in use by military forces around the world.

The launch of PlumeSIM in 2008 provided CWA and CBRN instructors with a simulation package that enabled them to use their laptops, in conjunction with a map or images, to plan a diverse range of field and table-top exercises.

The type of substance, whether a single or multiple source and an array of environmental conditions (such as wind direction and speed) could all be easily configured. And the innovative technology enabled whole exercises to be recorded for after action review (AAR) and future contingency planning.

In 2016 came the introduction of PlumeSIM-SMART - which offered similar capabilities to PlumeSIM but replaced the use of simulator devices in the field with the simplicity of a mobile phone.

The ability to transform a mobile phone into a look-alike gas detector was to prove especially practical (and budget-friendly) for high-hazard industrial organizations and municipal responders.

And using mobiles offered some additional and unexpected benefits in that it enabled field exercises to take place in any location.

Realistic multigas training

The newest addition to Argon's simulation technology portfolio has been devised for specific use within the training environs of confined spaces and multi-level buildings.

The device will offer HazMat instructors the flexibility to simulate specific levels and concentrations of gases, whether these be in the form of a gas escape or a dangerous device (or devices) concealed within a building. 

It will also be highly configurable to enable instructors to select the use of either single or multigas sensors within their training scenarios.

The hardware will be identical to that currently available for CWA training and toxic industrial response training. It has also been configured to interact with existing hand-held gas detection simulators, such as PlumeSIM-SMART, to provide an enhanced level of realism and a more focused training experience.

Simulation sources will be able to be set to emit a signal that replicates the conditions of a particular substance, a low level or oxygen or an explosive atmosphere.

And as students move around the training environment, their display readings will adjust accordingly to simulate an event such as a breached alarm.

The latest detector also promises to overcome the issues posed by communications interference within buildings where GPS technology can often be limited.

Working in confined spaces within industrial complexes can present a daunting array of hazards, both for the staff operating within the facilities and for the emergency teams charged with first response.

The continued development of simulator technology can help to address these challenges by providing realistic, hands-on training opportunities that replicate real-life conditions.

Chemical warfare agent training using simulators

Topics: Simulation training, Chemical Hazard Training

Steven Pike

Written by Steven Pike