Do you store compressed gas cylinders in your workplace? The odds are, you probably do. Compressed gasses are used in industries ranging from aviation to beverages, to welding. Hundreds of different materials are packaged in compressed gas cylinders to include atmospheric gases, fuel gases, refrigerant gases, poison gasses, and gasses used for industrial use. In most cases, no matter what the material stored, the standards for safety remain the same. The hazards associated with these gases can include oxygen displacement, explosion and flammability hazards, toxicicity and the physical hazards of a ruptured cylinder.
When it comes to workplace safety with compressed gasses, you can find the requirements in 29 CFR 1910.101. One of the easiest, yet most often ignored safety measures is the visual inspection of cylinders. Per 29 CFR 1910.101(a) employers must inspect the cylinders to ensure that they are in a "safe condition".
Visual and other inspections must be conducted as described in the Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous materials regulations (49 CFR 171 - 179). Cylinders are required to be inspected at time of hydrostatic requalification. In addition, may manufacturers recommend at least an annual visual inspection in addition, or depending on the use, a visual inspection at even shorter time intervals.
Where the DOT regulations are not applicable, visual and other inspections must be conducted as prescribed in the Compressed Gas Association's C-6 standards for visual inspection of steel compressed gas cylinders, C-6.1 for visual inspection of aluminum compressed gas cylinders, C-6.2 for visual inspection of fiber reinforced compressed gas cylinder, and C-8 standard for requalification of DOT-3HT, CTC-3HT and TC-3HTM seamless steel cylinders pamphlets.
It is recommended that employees receive visual inspection training from a recognized training agency such as Professional Scuba Inspectors- Professional Cylinder Inspectors, INC (PSI-PCI).
Gas cylinder storage and handling also has its own set of guidelines and regulations. Per 29 CFR 1910.101(b), the facility handling, storage and utilization of all compressed gas cylinders must be in accordance with CGA Pamphlet P-1 Safe Handling of Compressed Gas Cylinders.
When being stored, gas cylinders should be properly secured at all times to prevent tipping, falling or rolling. They can be secured with straps or chains connected to a wall bracket or other fixed surface, or by use of a stand or cylinder cage. In addition, if the cylinders hold pure oxygen or flammable gas, they must be mechanically grounded in order to prevent ignition.
Additionally, the gas cylinders should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated, fire-resistant area that meets all applicable federal, state and local regulations. It is also recommended that the appropriate NFPA 702 diamond be posted in order to assist first responders in the event of a fire.
When a gas cylinder is empty or not being used, ensure that the valve is closed, the regulator removed and that the valve protector cap is secured in place. Cylinders that are out of hydro or are empty should be properly labeled/placarded, and segregated from those in use.
When transporting cylinders you should us hand trucks designed for that purpose. Don’t roll them in order to prevent damage. When transporting by vehicle, cylinders should be secured so that they do not tip, fall, roll, or potentially fall from the vehicle Please check with your state to determine the requirements for placarding and labeling the vehicle when transporting.
Appropriate lifting devices, such as cradles or nets must be used when using a crane, hoist or derrick to transport gas cylinders. Do not use magnets or slings to lift gas cylinders. Do not use the valve protection cap for lifting a gas cylinder.
It is necessary to take precautions so that gas cylinders are not dropped or allowed to strike each other or other objects. Dropping or striking may damage the gas cylinder valve, which could turn the gas cylinder into a dangerous torpedo with the potential to destroy property and/or injure and kill personnel.
Consult the appropriate safety data sheet (SDS) and cylinder label for detailed information on the chemical contained in the gas cylinder. Specific chemical handling and storage precautions will be outlined in the SDS. The SDS will also have specifications for appropriate personal protective equipment for worker protection. Remember, while cylinders all have the same physical hazards associated with them, the material inside might have additional hazards that you must be aware of.