Respect The Power of Compressed Gas Cylinders
Riddle: What can fly through the air for a half-mile or more, smash
its way through brick walls, yet re-lease its power through an opening no bigger
than the diameter of a pencil?
Answer: A compressed gas cylinder!
Cylinders may look hardy, but they are pressurized to thousands of pounds per
square inch, which makes them extremely hazardous when exposed to motion or
vibration. How's this for sheer raw power? A carbon dioxide cylinder with a
missing cap was carelessly pulled across an airplane hangar floor. When the
cylinder fell, the valve broke off, and the bottle took off at high speed. It
crashed through several aircraft wings, broke off sprinkler heads that started a
flood, destroyed expensive equipment, and tore through a concrete wall before
finally coming to rest outside. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the total
damage was more than half a million dollars!
You wouldn't want your employees to get in the path of that runaway cylinder.
The best way to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring is to train your
workers to follow prescribed safe handling procedures when using compressed gas
Understanding the Hazards
While each type of compressed gas has its own hazards, most are flammable,
explosive, toxic, or a combination of these types. Some common kinds of
compressed gas include acetylene, ammonia, car-bon dioxide, chlorine, fluorine,
hydrogen, and oxygen. Remind your employees to read the label on the cylinder
and the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for safety information.
These are the recommended safe practices to follow when handling most
compressed gas cylinders.
How to store them:
- Cylinders should be stored in a dry,
well-ventilated area at least 20 feet from combustible materials. Don't keep
the cylinders in lockers or cupboards.
- Oxygen cylinders must be separated by 20
feet from fuel-gas cylinders, such as acetylene or by a noncom-bustible
barrier at least 5 feet high with a fire-resistance rating of at least
- They should be stored upright and secured
with a chain or cable.
- Valves and caps should be complete-ly
- Room temperature should remain constant.
How to transport
them—use a hand truck.
carefully—avoid dropping or banging them.
How to use them:
- Open valves by hand, rather than with a
tool (unless a specific tool is recommended by the supplier).
- Release the valves slowly.
- If a special wrench is required to open
the valve, leave it in position while in use so that the flow of gas can be
stopped quickly in an emergency.
- Don't tamper with safety devices.
- Keep cylinders upright and away from heat,
sparks, fire, or electrical circuits.
- Avoid getting any oil or grease on the
cylinders, particularly those containing oxygen.
How to maintain them:
- All cylinders should be properly marked to
identify the contents.
- Make sure valve protection caps are in
- If cylinders are leaking, take them
outdoors away from sparks or heat and slowly empty them.
- Make sure to mark all empty cylinders.
Some companies use ‘MT’ (short for EMPTY).
- Put a warning tag on cylinders that were
leaking and notify the supplier.
- Never mix gases in a cylinder or try to
refill a cylinder (contact the supplier).
- If a cylinder leaks or a valve is bro-ken,
tag the cylinder and contact a trained maintenance person or the supplier.
- NEVER smoke around a compressed gas
- Don't use the recessed top of the cylinder
as a storage area for tools or material.
your training session, have a compressed gas cylinder available and demonstrate
proper handling and operating procedures. Show what a damaged or leaking
cylinder looks like and explain how to report these conditions. Review relevant
MSDS's and discuss health hazards and safety precautions. Ask about any problems
with transporting or storing cylinders at your facility.
In particular, warn your employees not to become complacent around compressed
gas cylinders. If your workers are at all skeptical about the need to use
caution, remind them of the story of the runaway cylinder that wreaked havoc.
OSHA Required Training for Compressed Gases 29 CFR 1910.253(a)(4)
Workmen in charge of the oxygen or fuel-gas supply equipment, including generators,
and oxygen or fuel-gas distribution piping systems shall be instructed and judged
competent by their employers for this important work before being left in charge.
Rules and instructions covering opera-tions and maintenance of oxygen or fuel-gas
supply equipment including generators, and oxygen or fuel-gas distribution piping
systems shall be readily available.