Working Safely with Compressed Gas in the Workplace
A compressed gas is a chemical product in its gaseous form and it is compressed in some kind of cylinder under pressure. There are many products that are classified as compressed gas. Because of this pressure all compressed gases are considered hazardous. If the cylinder were to break or the valve were to be opened improperly the force of the gas could be very powerful, enough to cause serious injury.
Some compressed gases also pose a fire or explosion risk. Some examples include: methylamine, chloride, butane, hydrogen, and acetylene. In addition, any gas which contains higher than atmospheric oxygen concentrations, which is about 25%, can explode under certain conditions. Some examples include; nitrogen oxide (there are different types), chlorine, and fluorine.
Inert gases: these are gases, which do not pose a flammable, explosion, or toxic hazard. However, in large enough quantities they can displace oxygen. What this means is that they will take the space of oxygen and workers can suffocate from low oxygen levels. This is particularly hazardous in enclosed areas, mine shafts, wells, etc. Two common examples are nitrogen and argon.
Working With Compressed Gas
- Apply the same principles as listed above for regular gas safety.
- Know all of the hazards (fire/explosion, health, chemical reactivity, corrosivity, pressure) of the materials you work with.
- Use only cylinders, valves, and connections specifically designed to hold compressed gas.
- Use cylinders that have at least one safety relief device (e.g. rupture disc, fusible plug), which can prevent a rupture if the pressure increases above safe levels.
- Some gases should not be stored in a cylinder with a relief device because they are highly toxic. Instead they are stored in cylinders designed to hold higher than normal pressures.
- Inspect all cylinders when they are delivered to your work place (visible cracks, odors, hissing sounds).
- Check all labels. Do not rely on cylinder color to identify the gas as this is not always accurate.
- Never lift cylinders with chains, wires, ropes, or magnets.
- Do not roll cylinders along the ground even for a short distance.
- Transport only on specialty built hand carts or trolleys.
- All care must be taken so they do not fall.
- Store only in the temperature recommended by the manufacturer.
- Do not repaint or change any markings on a cylinder.
- Only specialists should be filling or changing the contents of a cylinder.
In Case Of an Emergency
- Evacuate the area immediately.
- Notify everyone in the area to evacuate.
- Do not try to fix the problem if it is beyond your training.
- Call the fire department immediately.
- Remove any contaminated clothing.