We are in a unique position of being on all sides of the bump test conversations. We sell industrial gases through Cal Gas Warehouse, and we calibrate gas detection units through Frederick Supply (our safety store). We deal with customers in nearly every industry you can imagine. Our experience over the last few years around this particular subject, has us ALARMED!

We frequently run into clients that own gas detection units that don’t know what a bump test is, or worse, they know and aren’t doing them. We will obviously not name any company by name, but we will discuss some of the recent encounters we have had. Hopefully, this post will lead to important discussions inside your company. The ultimate goal is to get everyone home safely and to mitigate risk as much as possible.

First, we should define what a bump test is and what sets it apart from anything else you will do with a gas detection unit. The following are bump test definitions as described by some gas detection unit OEM’s and OSHA

  • Industrial Scientific (ISC) describes a bump test – “Bump testing is the only way to ensure proper sensor and alarm functionality. A bump test is defined as the process of briefly exposing sensors in a gas detector to an expected concentration of gas that is greater than the alarm set points.”
  • MSA describes it this way – “Bump testing the gas detector will alert the user of a non-functioning sensor and if a gas inlet has become blocked, even if the blockage is not visible to the human eye. The traditional bump test consists in checking the instrument’s ability to respond to a challenge gas within a given amount time.”
  • Crowcon defines it this way – “A bump test is the only way to ensure the whole gas detector unit is working properly. It checks that the sensors respond to the target gas, it also verifies that the display reacts.  It confirms that all the alarms are activated, and the detector goes properly into alarm.”
OSHA describes it like this – Bump Test (or Function Check)

This is a qualitative function check in which a challenge gas is passed over the sensor(s) at a concentration and exposure time sufficient to activate all alarm settings. The purpose of this check is to confirm that gas can get to the sensor(s) and that all the instrument’s alarms are functional. The bump test or function check does not provide a measure of the instrument’s accuracy. When performing a bump test, the challenge gas concentration should trigger the DRPGM’s alarm(s). ~ SHIB 09-30-2013

Cal Gas Warehouse and Frederick Supply (that’s us) describe it like this – It is the LAST chance you have, before sending an employee into a potentially deadly situation, to make sure the life saving equipment you gave them, WORKS. It’s literally, that simple and that serious!

Did you know:

  • The industry average on performing bump tests is once every 52 days!
  • Gas detection manufacturers have told me that on average, 1 of 215 brand new gas detection units leave the factory with a bad sensor. It’s obviously not intentional, but it’s the nature of the technology.
  • An OSHA/MSHA trainer told me that he would estimate at least 50% of people he trains, that own detectors, don’t know what a bump test is or how to perform one.
  • A bump test takes less than a minute!

Excuses we get for not bump testing:

  • We don’t know what it is (Would that excuse fly with PPE that is required of you, on any jobsite, anywhere?)
  • It’s too expensive (Is it? How much is a wrongful death lawsuit in comparison?)
  • It’s inconvenient (How so? Let’s figure out some options because we are able to help companies that have crews bouncing around the country and are constant moving targets )
  • It’s up to date on calibration (One doesn’t relate to the other and calibration has no bearing on whether your instrument will pass/fail a bump test)
  • We only used it for an hour (It only takes a few minutes of exposure to be in real trouble or worse!)
  • It’s too hard to get the bump gas to the jobsite (There are non Hazmat cylinders that can be shipped ground ahead of time with proper planning – let’s talk about MegaBump)
  • We travel too much, can’t fly with it (You are correct but it doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility of a safe work environment for your employees. Talk to us, we will help you figure it out!)

This industry (all of us) have done a terrible job, explaining the bump test and its importance. We must all do better!

How many gas detection OEM sales reps are selling gas detection units without letting the purchaser know the importance and the life or death seriousness around bump testing?

How many safety stores are selling these units as an also category and aren’t trained well enough to show customers how to perform a bump test? Maybe, because they have never heard of it?

How many trainers are glossing over the subject because they assume people know or they know the client is not going to do it, or maybe the trainer doesn’t know?

How many people calibrating gas detectors are asking every customer if they are performing a bump test at the beginning of each day’s use?

We are alarmed at the amount of people we encounter that aren’t doing, a potentially life saving bump test, which takes only seconds. Every question in this section is because we have had direct experience with each scenario.

We believe this industry needs to take the “seatbelt” approach. I am old enough to remember when the seatbelt law came out and many were saying, we will never get everyone to wear a seatbelt, even if it is law. I don’t know the statistics, but I am willing to bet that over 90% of people wear their seatbelts. I would also bet that less than 50% of customers we first encounter, are performing bump tests.

We all can do better and we must! Bump tests should be alarming, but for all the right reasons.