Compressed gas cylinders are used widely in many commercial processes ranging from laboratories to welding operations. If not stored, handled, inspected, and used appropriately, compressed gas cylinders can be deadly. They can explode or become airborne missiles, exerting enough force to break through brick walls. Furthermore, they can create health hazards by leaking gases housed in the cylinder. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Transportation, and the Compressed Gas Association have outlined requirements and guidelines for storage, handling, and use of compressed gas cylinders.
- Cylinders must have clearly-visible identifying markings.
- Store compressed gas cylinders with the valve protection caps in place.
- Secure cylinders in the upright position with brackets, chains, or straps around the upper third of the cylinder.
- Acetylene must never be tipped on its side at any time.
- Storage areas should be dry, well-drained, fire resistant, and well-ventilated.
- Do not expose gas cylinders to salt or corrosives.
- Do not keep cylinders in public hallways or evacuation paths.
- Store empty cylinders apart from charged cylinders and label them so they are easily distinguished.
- Cylinders must be segregated into hazard classes while in storage. Oxygen and other oxidizers must be separated from flammable gases or combustible materials by a minimum distance of 20 feet or by a noncombustible barrier at least five feet high with a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour.
- Don’t handle or use gas cylinders unless you have been properly trained.
- Never transport a gas cylinder with the regulator in place.
- Ensure protective valve cap is in place before moving the gas cylinder.
- Never drag or roll a gas cylinder. Always secure the cylinders firmly to an appropriate cylinder cart, hand truck, lift truck, or crane with a cradle or platform.
- Never drop or strike gas cylinders against each other or other surfaces.
- Never lift or hoist a cylinder by the valve cover.
- Inspect the regulator and valve for signs of dirt, oil, grease, or solvent. Never use grease or oil to lubricate cylinder valves or regulators as this can cause an explosion.
- Ensure the cylinder is clearly labeled before accepting it from the vendor. Do not rely on labels present on valve caps as these can be inadvertently interchanged between cylinders. Do not rely on color-coding for cylinder identification. Color-coding is not reliable since cylinder colors may vary with supplier.
- Inspect cylinders for exterior corrosion, denting, bulging, gouges, or digs. If present, determine if they meet defined limits as outlined in the Compressed Gas Association’s Pamphlet C-6, Standards for Visual Inspection of Compressed Gas Cylinders. If you are not sure if any observed imperfections are acceptable under these guidelines, take the cylinder out of service.
- Consult the MSDS before using the gas. Many compressed gases pose not only a physical hazard, but a health hazard as well. Make sure you know the health hazards and how to protect yourself.
- Always follow the precautions for use and handling provided on the MSDS.
- Before use, make sure the cylinder is equipped with the correct regulator.
- Use only tools or wrenches provided or approved by the cylinder supplier to open and close a valve. Regular pliers should not be used to open a cylinder valve.
- Back off the pressure adjusting screw of the regulator in order to release the spring force before opening the cylinder valve.
- Open the cylinder valve slowly with the cylinder valve outlet facing away from you.
- Never tamper with or alter cylinders, valves, or safety-relief devices.
- Do not subject cylinders to freezing temperatures or to temperatures above 125 degrees.
- Never place cylinders next to heat sources or allow flame to contact the cylinder.
- Never place cylinders where they may become part of an electrical circuit or use them as a ground during electric welding.
- Wear safety glasses and a face shield when connecting and disconnecting regulators and lines to the cylinder.
- Do not force connections that do not fit.
- Never use copper fittings or tubing on acetylene tanks. This could result in an explosion.
- Close the cylinder valve when the cylinder is not in use.
- Close the cylinder valve and release all pressure before removing the regulator from the cylinder.
- Compressed Gases (General Requirements), 29 CFR 1910.101, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
- Oxygen-Fuel Gas Welding & Cutting, 29 CFR 1910.253, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
- Hazardous Materials Regulations of the Department of Transportation, 49 CFR parts 171-179 and 14 CFR part 103.
- Compressed Gas Association Pamphlets C-6-1968 and C-8-1962.
WCF Insurance Safety Department
NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.