Fill out the form to watch this Supervisor Safety Tip video.
Join HSI Chief Safety Officer Jill James as she visits environmental health and safety professionals in their workplaces to explore important workplace safety topics. This video explains what ozone is, the hazards associated with ozone, and what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to work safely in areas containing ozone.
Hi I'm Jill chief Safety Officer with HSI. I'm a former OSHA inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace hazards.
For this series we are at the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium to show you that no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.
Ozone is an effective disinfecting agent used in many different types of industries including water bottling, dairies, food processing, laundry, medical pharmaceuticals, pools and spas, pulp and paper, the dental industry, wastewater treatment, and aquaculture. Today we're at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and I'm with Chris our life support who's a specialist in a life support center and Chris works with ozone every day and Chris I'm wondering could you tell us what is ozone?
Ozone is a gas is created a sterilizing gas created by adding a lot of electricity to oxygen so something around 10,000 volts. When you add that much electricity to oxygen you cause it to go from being o2 to o3 it will actually pick up an extra atom and become this molecule ozone. As a rule ozone is an unstable molecule so will seek to bond with organic compounds in the water. So whatever you're trying to sterilize. For example it could be bad smell in the air or things are lost in the water or even fish oil. Ozone by nature will bond to this and being a very a powerful sterilize it will bond to it and break it apart. So the beauty of it is ozone will then do this job and clarify water or air and as it's necessary. When ozone is done doing that job the advantage of ozone is it will turn back into oxygen, it sheds that extra atom and becomes back to plain air which can be ratled off.
Sure and so how do you use it here at the aquarium? Well here the aquarium we create the ozone inside the building the ozone then transfers to a special tank where it meets water from our tanks. From there from where the animals are actually kept. In the right amount when it's added the right amount to that vessel it will actually get in there and sterilize the water and make it clear and clean. So particularly with things like fish oil that cloud the water or broken down dissolved organics like plant matter things to make water great green or cloudy. Ozone will bond to those things and sterilize them create a much more clean, clear water so that's what purpose will use it for here in the aquarium.
Okay so what are the hazards associated with ozone? Ozone has a lot of advantage but the hazards are pretty extreme. The sense that ozone by itself is a very corrosive gas by nature. What it does is it will bond to organic compounds. Could be air could be parts of your lungs, and by doing that job it breaks those things down it effectively destroys them. So if you were to ingest you know it's basically inhale ozone it would then go in and destroy your lone membranes destroy the membranes alveoli and your lungs allow you to breathe and replace the oxygen therefore in your lungs and destroy you eventually it is fatal. So its a dangerous thing, so it's very carefully monitoring and is added as is necessary.
And so it sounds like maybe we would have to take precautions for both the environment and for people. So how do you how do you protect the environment and people here at the aquarium? Well first of all there are probes again in the system to let us know if ozone has escaped but whenever we're dealing with an ozone system we have to make sure there is no ozone present, much like if you have an electrical appliance that might still be charged even though it's not plugged in ozone still exists in places so as a working on we're gonna take a lot of cautious steps with testing personal protective gear that personal monitors let us know air sensors let us know if it's present before we work on equipment you wouldn't want ozone to be trapped inside of a pipeline or somewhere in one of these vessels where it can react and affect us it was open.
So you're wearing a personal monitoring device. A monitoring device is critical when work with those on this. Do also have to wear a respirator or is that is there monitoring device the system? Typically a respirator would only be used if you could not remove this you know, the ozone from that space. Respirators that are given to general staff that work in the energy department are generally considered to be not effective you know self-contained reading operation is the only one that worked. Fire departments, rescue personnel will be more suited to enter an ozone space you could not better because it displaces the oxygen. It displaces the oxygen, it is not something you can easily filter out effectively with anything but carbon.
Now here at the aquarium we actually use activated carbon to break it down but there would be difficult to have it on your person to do the same job. All about more importantly evacuating the space back putting the air from the space to make sure there's no more ozone present. The pros may go off to tell us is a problem but we do not enter a space again until the personal protective equipment we have on, personal breathing sensor our will let us know that it's safe to do so. And so emergency planning is really critical absolutely critical also constant system maintenance to make sure that our safety systems our interlock systems are all working perfectly 100% of the time not only for us personally but for the animals as well because if those systems don't work you can over sterilize the system with animals in it and kill them. That would be equally bad for us.
And so we're standing behind some tanks that contain ozone. We are standing at this we are just standing at the system back here whereby we actually inject ozone into the water to do the job. We don't actually inject ozone into the big tanks the way you would assume if we take a certain amount of water from the tanks at a time that's called a side stream. We've divert that down and we ozonate that and then once that water is cleaned we put that water back the tank. So we're only doing so much a time because obviously we don't want too much ozone to be present anywhere. You know there's another danger associated with ozone is that if left alone inside of certain pipes it will turn transforming and nitric acid there's also a burn element with ozone, extra by-product nitric acid being extremely dangerous that we also have to consider when we deal with ozone. So we're dealing with piping the may have had no ozone in it for a quite a long time. So we carefully check make sure the presence of acid for reactive. Okay very good well there is a lot too ozone safety.
And Chris I'm so thankful that you're sharing this. It's my pleasure. Well it's important it's important work and hopefully you've taken something away that you can add to your safety audits and your safety knowledge comes to working with with ozone. Absolutely my pleasure thank you.
I hope you gained a safety skill today. If you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.
Safety is everyone's business.