Compressed gases and cylinders must be properly stored, transported and used to prevent injury and accidents. Industrial gas cylinders are color coded to provide identification "at a glance". Regulators, cylinders and cylinder valves must be inspected regularly to ensure safe operation. Gases that may react with each other must be stored separately.
Compressed gas cylinders present numerous hazards and can contain gases that are:
• Flammable or combustible
Gas cylinders must be clearly identified. Never rely on the color of the cylinder for identification.
• Never attempt to repair a cylinder or valve
• Firmly attach cylinders to a bench top, wall, or holding cage. Use chains or sturdy straps
• Shut the cylinder valve when gas is not in use
• Open cylinder valves slowly. Never fully open cylinder cylinder valves.
• Don't store acetylene cylinders on their side
• Maintain 20 feet between flammable gas cylinders and oxygen cylinders
• Never bleed a cylinder below 25 psi.
• Close all valves and replace caps before moving
• Store empty and full cylinders in separate areas
• Use safety glasses or face shield when handling or connecting gas cylinders
• Never roll or drag cylinders
• Use wheeled carts to move larger cylinders
• Move only one cylinder at a time
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, carbon 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.
Here are recommended safe practices when handling most compressed gas cylinders:
• 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 non-combustible barrier at least 5 feet high with a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour.
• They should be stored upright and secured with a chain or cable.
• Valves and caps should be completely closed.
• Room temperature should remain constant.
• Secure the cylinders upright.
• Don't drag them—use a hand truck.
• Handle carefully—avoid dropping or banging 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.
• All cylinders should be properly marked to identify the contents.
• Make sure valve protection caps are in place.
• 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").
• 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 broken, tag the cylinder and contact a trained maintenance person or the supplier.
• NEVER smoke around a compressed gas cylinder.
• Don't use the recessed top of the cylinder as a storage area for tools or material.
When conducting 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.
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