The use/storage of compressed gasses may pose various safety and health hazards in the workplace. Compressed gases can be toxic, flammable, oxidizing, corrosive or inert. All compressed gases are hazardous because of the high pressures inside the cylinders. Cylinders can become damaged from falling, heat, electric circuits, motion, vibration or anything that can cause a weakness or crack in the cylinder wall or shell. Even at a relatively low pressure, gas can flow rapidly from an open or leaking cylinder. Many compressed gases could cause various health problems depending on the specific gas, its concentration, the length of exposure and the route of exposure (inhalation, eye or skin contact). In accordance with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.101(a) employers must inspect cylinders to ensure that they are in a “safe condition”. The following checklist applies to the handling, storage, and use of compressed gases in cylinders or portable tanks.
- Are cylinders stored in upright positions and immobilized by chains or other means to prevent them from being knocked over?
- Are cylinders stored away from highly flammable substances, i.e. oil, gasoline, or waste?
- Are cylinders stored away from ignition sources, and substances such as flammable solvents and combustible waste material?
- Are flammable gases separated from oxidizing gases in storage areas? Note: Acetylene and propane cylinders should be separated from oxygen cylinders when not in use.
- Are oxygen and fuel gas cylinders separated by a minimum of 20 feet when in storage?
- Are storage rooms for cylinders dry, cool and well- ventilated?
- Are cylinders stored away from incompatibles, excessive heat, continuous dampness, salt or other corrosive chemicals, and any areas that may subject them to damage?
- Is the storage area permanently posted with the names of the gases stored in the cylinders?
- Do all compressed gas cylinders have their contents and precautionary labeling clearly marked on their exteriors?
- Are all compressed gas cylinder valve covers in place when cylinders are not in use?
- Are all compressed gas cylinders stored so they do not interfere with exit paths?
- Do all compressed gas cylinders have safety pressure relief valves?
- Are charged or full cylinders labeled and stored away from empty cylinders?
- Are all compressed gas cylinders regularly inspected for corrosion, pitting, cuts, gouges, digs, bulges, neck defects and general distortion?
- Are cylinder valves closed at all times, except when the valve is in use?
- Is using wrenches or other tools for opening and closing valves prohibited?
- Are all compressed gas cylinder connections such as pressure regulators, manifolds, hoses, gauges, and relief valves checked for integrity and tightness?
- Are all compressed gas cylinders regularly subjected to leak detection using an approved leak detecting liquid?
- Are employees prohibited from using compressed gases (air) to clean clothing or work surfaces?
- Are compressed gases only handled by experienced and properly trained people?
Furthermore, if a gas cylinder leak cannot be remedied by simply tightening the valve, the following procedures should be followed:
- Attach tag to the cylinder stating it is unserviceable.
- Remove cylinder to a well ventilated out of doors location.
- If the gas is flammable or toxic, place an appropriate sign at the cylinder warning of these hazards.
- Notify the gas supplier and follow his/her instructions as to the return of the cylinder.
In closing, please consider instituting policies/guidelines for the safe storage, handling, and use of compressed gases.
Remember: Proactive Safety Beats Reactive Safety!
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