Compressed Gases: Safe Storage and Handling

January 29, 2018 / OSHA

Who would have ever thought that those little, red fire extinguishers, mounted on walls in picture framed boxes, could be deadly? A fire extinguisher is a pressurized vessel that, like any compressed gas, can turn into an exploding bomb due to unsafe storage or handling.

No matter how large or small the cylinder, compressed gases can be toxic, flammable and missile-like if misused or if the cylinder becomes damaged. Even what seems to be an empty tank can be dangerous.

Common compressed gases found in medical and/or dental facilities are oxygen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other gas mixtures. Employees should be trained on safe storage and handling of the compressed gases in their facilities and how to recognize and eliminate hazards. They must also be kept in a secure area to prevent tampering by unauthorized individuals.

Here are some points to remember:

Inspection

  • Employers are responsible for making sure the compressed gas cylinders and regulators under their control are in a safe working condition through a visual inspection. Look for rust, dents, cracks or leaks on the tanks, and grease, oil, or dirt on the regulators.
  • The contents of all compressed gas cylinders should be clearly identified with a durable label indicating a hazardous gas that is a flammable, toxic or corrosive. If the label is missing, then do not accept delivery of the compressed gas cylinder.
  • All gas lines leading from a compressed gas supply should be clearly labeled to identify the gas and the area it serves.
  • Make sure compressed gas tanks are secured and stored in a safe location.

Storage

  • Store containers in a cool, dry, well-ventilated, fire-resistant location that is in accordance with federal, state and local regulations. Post proper signage for all compressed gas cylinders.
  • Keep them secured at all times, whether full or empty, to prevent tipping, falling or rolling. They can be secured with straps or chains to a wall bracket or other fixed surface, or kept in a cylinder stand.
  • Do not store cylinders near electrical circuits.
  • If compressed gas cylinders are stored outside in a closet or enclosure, be sure they are protected from the damp ground or floor to prevent bottom corrosion.
  • Full and empty compressed gas cylinders of all gases should be stored separately and identified by signs to prevent confusion.
  • Do not permit oil or grease to come in contact with compressed gas cylinders or their valves.
  • When a compressed gas cylinder is not being used, or is empty, close the valve and secure the valve protector cap.
  • It is recommended that storage areas are identified with proper signage to indicate the hazard and safety instructions.

Handling

  • Consult the appropriate SDS for detailed and specific information on handling the chemical contained in the gas cylinder.
  • Do not transport compressed gas cylinders without a protector cap. Remove the regulator and always use a cylinder cart to move them. Do not slide, drag or roll cylinders on the floor.
  • Wear appropriate PPE when handling compressed gas cylinders.
  • Do not lift a gas cylinder by the valve or protector cap.
  • Attach the regulator securely before opening the valve wide.
  • Always use a cylinder wrench or another tightly fitting wrench to tighten the regulator nut and hose connections.
  • Open cylinder valves slowly and stand to the side.

Training

Employees responsible for inspection, storage and handling of compressed gas cylinders must meet OSHA’s Federal and State Hazard Communication training requirements. TMC covers this training and information in our full-service program. If you are not a full-service client, you can find more information at the following links:  http://www.oshatraining.com/osha-training-requirements-hazard-communication.php

More information on safety guidelines and a compressed gas cylinder safety inspection check list can be downloaded from here: http://www.wsmr.army.mil/PDF/compressedgassafety.PDF

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