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Practical Uses for Direct Read Real-time Instruments

Ed Stuber offers insight on the basic, expanded, and the exotic instruments that Galson’s rental division offers to its clients.

The following is from a presentation given by Ed Stuber, CIH, Monitoring Solutions Consultant to the CNY Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

I’d like to start by first comparing and contrasting the practical uses of real-time instruments with everyone here, because I am sure there is something that even the 30-year veterans in the audience may not know.

With respect to direct read, real-time portable instruments there are pros and cons to them. The pros may be obvious; they give real-time readings; they’re portable; and these instruments use rechargeable or disposable batteries so you can take them most anywhere. But most importantly, these instruments can continuously or intermittently log data so that you don’t have to worry about being present to collect the results.

However, there are some drawbacks to these instruments

For example, some of these instruments don’t just look expensive, they are expensive. They range in price from $500-$600 for a small pump to $10,000 or more for some of the others. It’s a significant capital investment if you want to buy these instruments, but you don’t necessarily have to do that.

You can overcome the capital outlay, rather inexpensively, by renting them only when you need them and you really get a good bang for your buck. When you rent you don’t have to maintain them, and that will save you a great deal of money on maintenance and calibration costs.

Another potential drawback is that these instruments appear complicated to use. Well, they are not really complicated, but you do need some expertise and training to use them. It’s not like taking a pump and sticking it on a worker and coming back later. You do need some practical experience and understanding. But, you can overcome that by using our online videos, calling the Galson client service line, or contacting me. We are always there to give you help and to talk you through any familiarization you may need. So even if you don’t necessarily have the experience, you can at least get up to speed by visiting our website.

I picked just 16 of the instruments that we have, and this is by no means everything available to you, rather it represents a sample of the different types of direct-read instruments for your use in the field as a hygienist or a health and safety professional.

The Basics

First, every instrument that we are going to talk about with practical use will data-log. Data-logging means the instrument collects the data as you go along and simply stores it for later. If the instrument is in a secure area, you don’t have to be there constantly looking at it, you don’t have to worry about missing something because it’s going to store the data.

Photo Ionization Detector (PID)

The PID or photo ionization detector is one of the oldest direct-read instruments out there. PIDs are used for volatile organic compounds. For example, if you have an unknown odor or if you are concerned about off-gassing of a product such as a cabinet, or some furniture, or a manhole that has an odor, you can use this instrument to determine the concentration of VOCs. It doesn’t tell you what the VOCs are and it doesn’t go down to the very low levels that you might want to look at in this situation. So, to expand on a PID you would use a PPB RAE, which is a more sensitive PID. The PPB RAE goes down to a lower level, in the parts per billion range. So you have this option to measure odors that you could not detect with the basic PID. This lower detection limit allows you to detect concentrations that may be causing some throat irritation, eye problems, or some other malady. The PPB RAE will give you those low levels. While you still may want to identify the specific compound causing the issue, the PPB RAE will at least let you know, at a level lower than the nose can detect, the concentration of the VOCs present.

Confined Space Meter

Another basic instrument is the confined space meter, four gas meter, or explosivity meter. They have different names, but essentially, they are handheld units (that can also be worn on a belt) and they determine your basic confined space parameters—lower explosive limit (LEL), oxygen, hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. That’s how most of these units are set up and those are the gases that you are really worried about. You can set these instruments for various alarm levels. For example, you might set a low level alarm for oxygen. When those alarms go off, you get out. This is a very popular instrument with all health and safety professionals.

One thing you can also do with a confined space meter to expand it is combine it with a PID or you can put different chemical sensors into the confined space meter, such as NO, NO2, to name a couple. You’ve now developed a tremendous instrument that can take a lot of readings for a variety of chemicals. You should talk to your vendor as you need different types of PID lamps for different types of chemicals.

Basic Pump

I wanted to mention the basic air sampling pump, which is not a direct read instrument—it just draws air. Unfortunately it does not always consistently or effectively draw air. But, what if you take that pump and add data-logging capability? You’ll get some information with it. Well, these pumps are available and I don’t think a lot of people really know about this. These pumps will allow you to data-log the flow rate and integrate the volume so you can tell what that rate is and the final volume even if there were periods of instability during the day. It also has smart battery management on these pumps. Even though they run on nickel metal hydride batteries, which are better batteries now, they could still run out on you while they are in the field and you wouldn’t know about it until it’s too late. The data-logging energy-management pumps allow you to collect a valid sample even if issues arise.

These pumps are able to tell you how much time is left on your batteries. This smart battery system is also intrinsically safe and can be used in such situations as mining. They go from 20 cubic centimeters per minute, which is very low, to 3 liters per minute, which is very high. The pump we have available is the TSI SidePak.

So this pump tells you what the flow rate is and the volume collected and data-logs, but what if it went a bit farther and you could get readings on this pump? One such application is to determine how much dust is being collected while the person is working and being able to data-log the concentration of dust over time. This combined pump and dust monitor is called the TSI AM510 SidePak Personal Aerosol Monitor.

A practical use for a real-time dust monitor can be found far away in Portugal. We were asked to provide 30 of these instruments to the Forrest Commission in Portugal as they were working on forest fire exposures and they wanted to have real-time data for the workers. They used this data to determine the dust levels they were being exposed to during the burning forest fires. The firefighters wore these during the day, they didn’t need a laboratory, and they just downloaded the data at the end of the day. This was a 3-year study and they raved about the effectiveness of the pump with real-time dust exposure monitoring. So now, you can data-log your flow rates, total volumes, and your actual exposure results for particulates. This is a fairly new instrument, 3-5 years, which has received great reviews and it available for your use.

In a more traditional environment, this real-time dust meter can tell you during which parts of the day a worker was exposed to the highest concentrations of dust. This would allow you to provide more concise controls to the specific events in a process to mitigate exposures.

Expanded Instruments

Noise Dosimeter

If you are not doing chemical sampling, particulate sampling, or heat stress, then you are probably doing noise monitoring. We use Quest noise dosimeters and some people may not know the Quest noise dosimeter is actually two noise dosimeters in one. You can set this particular product for two types of dosimetry at once that you might want to monitor (hearing conservation (HC), permissible exposure limit (PEL), ACGIH or MSHA). If you don’t know which you want to use, it will default to the OSHA hearing conservation and PEL and you don’t have to do anything it does it for you.

You can test for OSHA HC, OSHA PEL, MSHA and ACGIH set limits that are pre-progeammed or you can set your own parameters. If you want to set your data from 60 decibels on up to 120 or higher, you can do that.

If you are worried about noise, and I know a lot of people are, because it’s not straight forward, it has algorithms involved, it has some math, and a lot of people get antsy about it. The good news is that we can help you with it. We have a fully staffed rental department, a knowledgeable client service staff and two CIH’s that can help you through any questions.

So, what if you wanted to do all four of noise standards at once (OSHA HC, OSHA PEL, MSHA and ACGIH) and you didn’t want to use two separate instruments? Then you could use the Quest Noisepro DLX, which allows you to collect data against all four standards at one time. It has more capabilities that the previous meter.

But what if you want to analyze the wavelengths and the values associated with the noise? Then you need a sound meter, which is above and beyond a noise dosimeter.

IAQ monitor

An indoor air quality meter monitors for temperature, relative humidity (RH), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) for indoor air quality comfort. This allows you to find ways to make each parameter better if there is a problem. What it doesn’t do is tell you about the potential volatile organic contaminants, only the four basic comfort readings.

But, what if you want to know more about the organic gases? Then there’s the IAQ monitor with a PID. It measures temperature, RH, CO and CO2. It measures these four parameters, plus with the PID in it, you have comfort issues you can deal with, plus volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could determine if new furniture or carpet is off-gassing. You can also replace one of the standard sensors with one of the available toxic sensors for greater specificity (NH3, CO, HCN, H2S, NO, NO2, or SO2). The beauty with this product and data-logging is that it tells you at the end of the day, what time you had your concentration. For example, at 12:30, you had a spike on VOCs. So, now you can investigate to determine what may have caused that spike.

Dust Trak

Before the TSI AM510 SidePak Personal Aerosol Monitor was available, people used t a TSI DustTrak to measure PM 10, PM 2.5, respirable and total dust. It’s an area sample, not a personal sample, but it can be used for an indoor room as well as outside with an environmental enclosure kit.


If you want to do small particulates, or nano-particulates, then you need a TSI P-Trak. The P-Trak does ultrafine particles, down to the micron level. The difficulty with nano-particles, and there is a lot of interest in these particles, is what do we actually measure for? What we can measure is sizes and the P-Trak is very compatible with measuring the particle sizes.

These are instruments that professionals in the field should be familiar with, and will have to use someday as nano-technology advances into more working environments.

Exotic Instruments

Ozone Meter

Ozone is a fleeting compound that is normally a concern only near a source where people may be exposed. Using a pump and tube approach to ozone provides exposure for as little as 15 minutes up to 8 hours. This isn’t always the best way to determine exposures if you need to swap out a tube every 15 minutes on an employee or accept that the 8 hour exposure value will give you actionable data. Using a relatively new real-time ozone meter with data-logging capability allows you to see the concentration in small intervals of time, and for an extended period. This has made the monitoring of this once hard-to-monitor compound quite easy and informative.


Vibration monitors today can determine specialized sections of exposure such as hand and arm vibration, or whole body vibration. The Quest data-logging instruments allow you to monitor for vibration with data-logging capability. The expense of these instruments, and their somewhat infrequent use, makes rental an ideal option for most hygiene, health and safety professionals.


This is a portable direct-read vapor analyzer with both a photo-ionization detector (PID) and a flame ionization detector (FID). It allows you to measure a wide range of organic vapors over a wide range of concentrations (up to 50,000ppm). The FID is the most commonly used part of this instrument because although there are smaller, more sensitive PIDs on the market, this is one of the only FID instruments. The FID sees a wider range of compounds than the PID. This instrument is excellent for fugitive emission sleuthing, emergency response measurements around spills, and for industrial hygiene to identify ventilation system effectiveness and general hot-spots in specific breathing zones around a plant. One slight deterrent to using this instrument is that you need hydrogen to operate it. Galson supplies the cylinder and the regulator, but you will need to obtain some hydrogen in the supplied cylinder from a weld shop or local gas supplier, It’s a relatively easy thing to do. This instrument will do FID and PID analysis simultaneously, but most people use it as an FID. It will help you identify the VOC of concern.

This portable FID/PID allows you to get information on a specific compound right away, you don’t have to send samples to a lab and wait five days for the results. It is relatively easy to use, and if you have any questions we can readily assist you.

Miran SapphIRe

The Miran SapphIRe portable infra-red unit can determine gasses, but doesn’t analyze particulates. It allows you to detect gases that you normally wouldn’t be able to with an FID or PID, over 100 VOCs, anything that responds to the infra-red range wavelengths. It quantifies individual gasses as well when calibrated and you can pre-calibrate for up to 5 compounds. It also has an extensive library of compounds to help you identify unknowns. It is used for gas leaks, unknowns, plant surveys and is the best option for definitively quatifying CO, CO2, HCHO, CH4 among others.

All instruments come with a certificate of calibration, supplies, peripherals, a user manual and the necessary software to download your data and generate a report. Most instruments have an instructional video on our website that gives a general overview of the use and operation of the instrument. The only item not included is a PC. But, with an easy connection to your computer you can review your data quickly and easily.

Overall, this is just a sampling of the basic, expanded, and the exotic instruments that Galson’s Hygiene Rental division offers to its clients. If you have any questions please give me a call at (888) 432-5227 or drop me a note at

About Galson Laboratories

Galson Laboratories provides services in every state and 38 countries. Galson Laboratories works under the principles of continuous improvement and has developed industry-leading programs for its clients such as FreePumpLoan™ and FreeSamplingBadge™. Galson Laboratories is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 by AIHA. AIHA is an official signatory of the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) with the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). Headquartered in Syracuse, NY, Galson Laboratories has offices in Charleston, SC, Alameda, CA, Clear Lake Shores, TX, and Stevens Point, WI.

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