By James Smith
Environmental monitoring takes place daily. You may work in a facility where this occurs or you may pass through a zone that is being monitored without even knowing it. But what exactly are the best practices for environmental monitoring? Before we dig into that, let’s learn a little more about what this specialized form of monitoring is about.
What Is Environmental Monitoring
The environment being monitored in the following examples is the surroundings within a building or structure of some kind. Environmental monitoring plays a significant role in the healthcare industry, in the food manufacturing industry, and in industrial applications. In addition to assisting these businesses, companies, and facilities in meeting industry-specific compliance, environmental monitoring is critical to patient, consumer, and worker safety.
Storage temperatures and humidity levels must be maintained and environmental monitoring tools permit this to take place unattended. The devices used record precise variations in the conditions they have been programmed to track. Should a level rise or fall outside of the required parameters, an alarm will sound or a notification will be sent to a smartphone to signal that human intervention is required.
Now that we have covered what environmental monitoring entails, here is a closer look at a handful of best practices to expect in 2020.
1. Use Temperature and Humidity Sensors
If the facility requiring environmental monitoring is used to store food, medical supplies, or any other item that is sensitive to changes in the conditions of the storage area, use the correct tools. This would be temperature and humidity sensors. These sensors can provide very precise data on even the slightest increase or decrease. Plus, with safe parameters programmed into the sensors, it will be easier to identify when either the temperature or humidity falls outside of that zone.
2. Record the Information on a Data Logger
A data logger is an instrument that records and maintains the environmental monitoring information. According to Dickson, they are typically battery powered and equipped with internal memory. Data loggers can easily interface with a computer or allow information to be read and analyzed with the use of software programming. Data loggers give you the means to track changes to conditions that can impact the items that are in storage.
3. Have a Formal Process to Evaluate Success
It’s great to have all kinds of data collected related to the monitoring of the environment of your storage space, factory, clean room, or medication storage locker. However, to truly appreciate how that data prevents loss of any sensitive material, you require a process that is used to analyze and examine the data for any signs of change. Should the systems in place just verify that temperature and humidity levels held, that is still a success worth working toward.
4. Zone Off the Area to be Monitored and Monitor Each Zone
Unless the environment you are monitoring is extremely small, you can’t collect accurate data using just one device. The most effective way to remedy this is to divide the large space into smaller zones. Each of these zones should then receive its own dedicated monitoring devices. This will record accurate readings of conditions in smaller areas that can be compared to other parts of the same structure to identify any recorded changes or potentially damaging or dangerously uneven conditions.
5. Carefully Consider Sensor Placement
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to properly deploying temperature and humidity sensors in a space where you are monitoring environmental conditions. Each space will be different, ranging from a small storage locker to a huge factory. However, there are a few key locations to consider. Humidity and temperature sensors should be placed in what is known as the hot zone. This is the area located furthest from a cooling unit.
6. Implement a Consistent Sampling Schedule
Thanks to data loggers’ capabilities, you can program a sampling schedule with ease. However, you must have a frequency of sampling in mind before setting the programming. Depending on the space and what you are monitoring the environment of that area for, hourly samples may be enough. After collecting some data and analyzing it, you may choose to modify your sampling rate. Different conditions and the volume of items in storage may also alter your sampling rate.
7. Provide Regular Training for Staff Using the Monitors
When engaging in environmental monitoring of a space such as a large structure, the data being collected is crucial in maintaining proper conditions for the items stored there. Staff using the monitoring equipment and software programs should be trained on how to use the equipment and how to understand the information being collected. With software updates and upgrading of monitoring devices, ongoing training sessions may be required to keep everyone current.
8. Keep Batteries and Backup Devices On-Site
Depending on the nature of the items whose conditions you are monitoring to prevent spoilage, your devices may use batteries. Thus, it is essential to have additional batteries handy to keep monitoring tools operational without lengthy downtime. This also applies to the monitoring devices. Keeping them calibrated annually will assist in collecting accurate data. Having a spare around won’t hurt if one stops working.
Thanks to environmental monitoring, goods get to where they are intended without a high rate of loss. Without the technology available today, precise logging of conditions ranging from temperature to humidity may not be possible, increasing the risk of illness and injury. Environmental monitoring has improved working conditions, kept facilities operating, and added an extra layer of security when food and healthcare industries utilize these monitoring systems.
By following best practices, you will ensure that correct actions are taken to keep conditions consistent. Maintaining the proper conditions in an enclosed environment is a big enough challenge, but by following best industry practices and ensuring that monitoring devices are in place, you’ll also ensure that any challenges that arise are easier to deal with.