The Tricorder Does Not Exist or Why You Need the Right Direct-Reading Instrument

Replica StarTrek tricorder

Okay, so there IS a tricorder, but it still doesn’t do the job you need.

In a training a few weeks ago, that’s how I started my session to a room full of IH and safety professionals: The Star Trek Tricorder just doesn’t exist. There’s no magic instrument that measures everything with 100% accuracy.

And it was sad news to the professionals from power plants, food production, healthcare, and metals industries that had joined us for the day. Their goal was to optimize their IH and safety practices by better use of direct-reading instruments. But before we built them up with knowledge, we had to tear down the idea that there was one tool to rule them all (sorry, mixing SciFi and Fantasy there, but you get it).

The course agenda for the day was split into sections: LEL meters, PIDs, aerosol instruments, noise dosimeters, colorimetric tubes and other devices, and focused on terminology, proper usage, case studies and the limitations of each technology.

What became apparent during the Q&A was that almost everyone had an example of someone telling them their instrument would “be fine”, “work great”, “no problem”. But when the time came, the instrument wasn’t fine, didn’t work great, and was full of problems, because they were trying to use it for something other than its intended purpose.  Yes, someone out there is suggesting that the TriCorder exists.

Direct reading, or real-time instruments, are very powerful tools, and can deliver great results when used properly and for the right measurement. One company at the class reported offsetting hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs because they were able to pinpoint the source of a problem with a direct read instrument. Another example was using direct reading instruments for “best practice” training.

Outstanding applications – saving money while reducing risk!  That’s fantastic.

But it wasn’t magic. It was evaluating a measurement goal, selecting the best technology to make the measurement, understanding the limits of the technology, and discussing how those limitations would be addressed.  When those steps are taken, the real power can be unleashed.  If any of those steps are missed, trouble is sure to follow.

If you have a question about an environmental, health or safety instrument, feel free to contact the RAECO team. Our goal is to delivery great results. To do that, we may ask questions that don’t seem to make sense – but there is a reason. We’re trying to understand the application, how to avoid any instrument weakness, and get you the measurement you need.

Learn more about direct reading instruments for gas detection, particulate monitoring, and noise monitoring at RAECO.com

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