5-Minute Safety Talk: Compressed Gas Overview

Compressed gases are extremely useful in our lives. At the same time, if not handled and stored properly, compressed gases can be hazardous. Compressed gas can be flammable, poisonous, corrosive or any combination of these.

Flammable Compressed Gases:

  • Explode if handled roughly or exposed to heat.
  • Ignite by heat, sparks or flames.
  • Flash back if vapors travel to a source of ignition.
  • Produce irritating or poisonous gas when burning.

Non-flammable Compressed Gases:

When mixed with fuels can become explosive.

Health Effects of Compressed Gases:

  • Can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Can have extremely irritating vapors.
  • Can cause cryogenic burns to skin and eyes.
  • Can produce irritating or poisonous gas when burning.
  • Can causes dizziness, unconsciousness or suffocation.

Handling Compressed Gas

The best way to protect workers from the hazards associated with compressed gas cylinders is to follow basic safety practices.

Cylinders

Compressed gas cylinders require careful handling to prevent damage. When handling cylinders:

  • Inspect cylinders before moving or using them (cylinder condition, valves, or damage).
  • Use specialized hand trucks to move cylinders in as near an upright position as possible. Secure cylinder to hand truck before moving.
  • Do not drop or bang cylinders together.
  • Do not roll, drag or slide cylinders. NEVER use cylinders as rollers or supports.
  • Don’t lift cylinders by the cap.
  • Don’t use magnets to lift cylinders.
  • Cradles or platforms can be used to lift cylinders only if the cylinder was manufactured with lifting attachments.

Compressed Gas Storage Guidelines

Acetylene is inherently unstable, so it is usually dissolved into acetone and stored in a cylinder that has been filled with a porous material such as diatomaceous earth or crushed firebrick (which helps to keep it stable). If the cylinder is left on its side, the liquid acetone could leak through the valve, creating a fire hazard and reducing the quality of the gas. In addition, you should never use copper fittings or tubing with acetylene tanks.
  • Store cylinders in an upright position.
  • Store cylinders properly. The safe way to store cylinders depends on the type of cylinder, its contents, and the nature of the site.
  • Keep cylinders out of the sun, away from sources of flame or sparks, and out of areas in which temperatures may exceed 125oF.
  • Store cylinders in a safe, dry, well ventilated place that is clean and free of combustible materials.
  • Avoid areas where the cylinders can be knocked down or damaged.
  • Store the cylinders in a position that ensures the safety relief device is always in direct contact with the cylinder’s vapor space.
  • Separate the cylinders by the types of hazards their contents pose. For example: Store oxygen compressed gas cylinders at least 20 feet from flammables or combustibles or separate them by a 5 foot tall fire-resistant barrier (with a burn time of 30 minutes).

Additional Considerations

  • Inspect the regulator and valves, verify they have not been compromised by solvents, dirt, or lubricants.
  • Relieve the regulator’s spring force by easing off the pressure adjustment screw before you open the valve pointing away from you.
  • With flammable gases such as acetylene, do not open the valve more than three-quarters of a turn to minimize the risk of an explosion (close the valve quickly if needed).
  • Leave some residual pressure in the used cylinder.
  • Close valve completely and replace the protective cap.
  • Label the cylinder as empty and store it away from the full cylinders.