Working Safely with Gases: Preparation and Education Are Key
The word gas implies that a chemical is in it's gaseous state. Because there are numerous types of gases one can work with it is vital that proper education be obtained from a professional instructor prior to commencing work.
Risks Posed By Gases
- Poisonous or toxic such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monixide, chlorine.
- Explosive such as propane, hydrogen
- Corrosive (they burn through things) such as acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine
- Pyrophoric (they burn when they come in contact with air and they can ignite spontaneously) such as silane, phosphine
Most accidents occur because of:
- Improper training.
- Not using adequate personal safety equipment.
- Poor handling and storage techniques.
- Faulty equipment e.g. valves on cylinders.
- Never smoke around gases.
- Always use proper breathing masks.
- Use body protection, such as plastic attire, face and eye protection, in case of an accident.
- Have eyewash and body wash stations readily available.
- Any container that contains gas, e.g. a cylinder, should be properly and clearly labeled. If the label is damaged mark as ‘unidentifiable' and return to supplier immediately.
- A competent person should inspect piping systems for leaks on a regular basis.
- Heat sources and gases should be kept away from each other.
- Proper storage of gases is vital. Some gases need to be stored at specific temperatures. And there are some gases that should never be stored together, e.g. acetylene and propane.
- Assure there is adequate ventilation in the room.
- When working with gases in cylinders:
- Make sure all cylinders are properly labeled.
- Do not rely on the color of the cylinder for identifying a gas.
- Cylinders should be placed on their sides, or if standing up they need to be tied with a chain so there is no chance of it falling.
- If the valve breaks, because of the pressure, the valve or the cylinder, or both, will project with great force.
- Always know what's in the cylinder, and how much pressure there is.
- Never try to repair a cylinder.
- Never mix gases in a cylinder.