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Gas safety in the food & drink industry

Author : James Harmer, Draeger Safety UK

21 February 2022

Gas safety has long been an area of focus for risk mitigation for businesses operating in the food and drink sector. Indeed, Draeger’s gas safety work with food and drink companies dates back over a hundred years, when founder Johann Heinrich Dräger developed the well-known Lubeca valve, which safely controlled the flow of gas in beer tap systems at a low pressure.

At the time, the invention was ground-breaking, being the first innovation to safely and precisely control the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from a high-pressure tank.

Today, the challenges faced may be different, but the subject of gas safety continues to be an important one.

Everards is a brewery based in Leicester. It recently opened Everards Meadows, a 70 acre site just outside of the city which is home to the company’s new state-of-the-art brewery. As well as the brewing operation, the site also includes a Beer Hall, where visitors can enjoy food and a selection of beers, and there is also a shop.

Jon Elks, Head Brewer, is responsible for safety at the new site and worked closely with Draeger’s Fixed Gas team in order to access the brewery’s requirements during the construction process, and he was also in charge of overseeing the installation process.

Jon comments: “From a brewing perspective, carbon dioxide poses the greatest gas risk. It’s produced in the fermentation process of beer making, and we use it to carbonise our bottled beer. While we capture the carbon dioxide created during the fermentation process, it is possible for the gas to escape in either situation. A leak of this nature would result in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere which is highly dangerous, and potentially lethal.

“We work in a building where there is ventilation but if carbon dioxide accumulated in pockets, displacing oxygen, it could have fatal consequences, so we take gas detection very seriously.”

Draeger Safety UK has been working with Everards since September and undertook a pre-construction risk assessment using the footprint of the new building. As a result, Everards has a protective wall of 15 gas detection devices, which link to a central, easy-to-use control panel.

As well as the sensors being set to emit both audio and visual alerts if they detection concentrations of gas at or above 1.5%, the system has been structured so that if there is any elevation in levels across three devices, the alarm will also go off. This secures against any slow leaks which can be rectified before they become a major problem.

As well as ensuring the safety of staff, equipment and plant, this also means that the gas itself – a critical part of the brewing operation – is not wasted, providing a cost saving.

Jon continues: “In addition to the fixed gas detection system, we also have a number of portable devices to give an extra layer of personal protection in areas of high risk and provide peace of mind. For example, these devices are used by our Beer Hall and shop staff if they need to come into the brewery.

“We’re all under one roof but the brewery is a separate compartment within the building. As a company, we take safety very seriously so staff who need to come into the brewery are all trained in the use of carbon dioxide monitors. Safety has to be our number one priority as an organisation and gas detection is at the heart of this.”

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