While visiting an automobile assembly plant, I came to an area in which cars often were turned around. They were backed into a small space that had no apparent ventilation and then driven out again.
I asked my guide, who was in charge of plant safety, about the possible excess carbon monoxide (CO) in that area. He informed me he had taken readings for CO in the area numerous times and had never found a measurable quantity.
I was sure there was an excessive amount of CO at the location and requested he sample for CO while I was there. He assured me there was no CO, but got out his equipment to take another sample.
The equipment consisted of sealed glass tubes containing a chemical that would change color if any CO was in the air drawn through the tubes by a calibrated squeeze bulb. He put a tube in its bracket, connected the tube to the bulb, and squeezed the bulb the recommended number of times.
After disconnecting the tube from the bulb, he showed me the tube and explained that the chemical's color did not change. Therefore, as he had said, there could not be any CO in the area. I looked closely at the tube and then asked if he had broken off its ends before connecting it to the squeeze bulb. He seemed surprised at my question.
“Am I supposed to?” he asked.
The moral of this story: Be sure a person is trained and understands how to use an instrument before you accept his or her findings.
Kenneth E. Robinson, CIH
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