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.
  • Combustible
  • 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.

Safety Precautions

  • 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.
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