Who among us hasn’t heard stories about cylinders of compressed gas shooting across the works yard like rockets, devastating everything in their paths?
Those stories aren’t myths. The reality is that compressed gases stored in cylinders are volatile substances that can, and do, explode when mishandled, stored improperly or moved carelessly.
To protect yourself and others it is important to familiarize yourself with the compressed gas substances you work with, the hazards they pose, and the steps that should be taken to avoid similar accidents.
Identify Cylinders Properly
Each cylinder should clearly indicate what is contained within it. Do not use any cylinder you cannot positively identify.
Store Cylinders Securely
Store cylinders upright using a chain, wall mounted clamp or floor bracket. Select a dry, well-ventilated area away from heat sources and electrical wiring and at least 20 feet (six meters) from other combustible materials.
Keep Oxygen and Combustibles Apart
Store oxygen at least 20 feet (six meters) away from combustible materials or fuel cylinders. If space is inadequate, separate the containers using a five-foot (1.5-meter) barrier made of a fireproof material. Cylinders should be stored with the valve closed and the protective caps screwed down to the last thread to protect the valve stem. Acetylene cylinders should be stored with the valve end up and the protective cap on. Never store a cylinder on its side.
Handle (and Move) Cylinders With Care
Move cylinders only when necessary. The potential for explosion increases each time a cylinder is moved or handled. Secure each cylinder upright on a hand truck or cylinder cart and be careful not to drop, bang or bump the cylinder during the move. Use extreme caution when using an elevator to move a cylinder because the sudden release of gas can cause asphyxiation and death in extreme cases. Consider using a buddy system or send the cylinder unescorted on the elevator while you take the stairs.
Keep cylinders away from areas where sparks, fire or other potential sources of ignition are present. Do not use oil or grease on the cylinders or handle them with greasy hands or with gloves that are greasy.
Cylinders of compressed gas are volatile objects filled with stored energy just waiting to explode. Use extreme caution when working with cylinders, around them or when moving them. Your safety and the safety of your coworkers depends on it.