Compressed gases in the laboratory present chemical and physical hazards. If compressed gases are accidentally released, they may cause the following:
- Depleted oxygen atmosphere
- Adverse health effects
Cylinders that are knocked over or dropped can be very dangerous and can cause serious injuries. If a valve is knocked off a compressed gas cylinder, the cylinder can become a lethal projectile. Because disposal of compressed gas cylinders is difficult and expensive, be sure to arrange a return agreement with suppliers prior to purchase.
Cylinders can travel through walls much like a torpedo travels through water. They can cause structural damage, severe injury, and death.
Follow these guidelines to ensure safe storage of gas cylinders:
- Secure all cylinders in racks, holders, or clamping devices. Fasten cylinders individually (not ganged) in a well-ventilated area.
- Do not rely on color to identify container contents. Check the label.
- Close valves, and release pressure on the regulators when cylinders are not in use.
- Minimize the number of hazardous gas cylinders in a laboratory. Do not exceed the following:
- Three 10" x 50" flammable gas and/or oxygen cylinders, and
- Two 9" x 30" liquefied flammable gas cylinders, and
- Three 4" x 15" cylinders of severely toxic gases (e.g., arsine, chlorine, diborane, fluorine, hydrogen cyanide, methyl bromide, nitric oxide, phosgene).
- Keep heat, sparks, flames, and electrical circuits away from gas cylinders.
- Store cylinders of flammable and oxidizing agents at least 20 feet apart, or separate these items with a fire wall.
- Do not store gas cylinders in hallways or public areas.
When working with compressed gas cylinders, remember the following:
- Never move a gas cylinder unless the cylinder cap is in place and the cylinder is chained or otherwise secured to a cart.
- Do not move a cylinder by rolling it on its base.
- Only use regulators approved for the type of gas in the cylinder.
- Do not use adapters to interchange regulators.
- When opening a cylinder valve, follow these guidelines:
- Direct the cylinder opening away from people.
- Open the valve slowly.
- If a cylinder leaks, carefully move the cylinder to an open space outdoors. Have the supplier pick up the cylinder.
- Do not use oil or other lubricant on valves and fittings.
- Do not use oxygen as a substitute for compressed air.
- Do not lift cylinders by the cap.
- Do not tamper with the safety devices on a cylinder. Have the manufacturer or supplier handle cylinder repairs.
- Do not change a cylinder's label or color. Do not refill cylinders yourself.
- Do not heat cylinders to raise internal pressure.
- Do not use compressed gas to clean your skin or clothing.
- Do not completely empty cylinders. Maintain at least 30 psi.
- Do not use copper (>65% copper) connectors or tubing with acetylene. Acetylene can form explosive compounds with silver, copper, and mercury.
- Always wear impact resistant glasses or goggles when working with compressed gases.
Reviewed November 2014