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Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety

Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety

Compressed gas cylinder safety is critical to anyone working around cylinders or tanks of compressed or liquid gas.

A compressed gas cylinder is a high-pressure vessel designed to store and transport gases at pressures above atmospheric. The cylinder is made of durable materials such as steel or aluminum, and is fitted with a valve to control the release of the gas.

Compressed gas cylinders are used in a wide range of industries for a variety of purposes, including welding, laboratory work, medical applications, and industrial manufacturing. Proper handling and storage of compressed gas cylinders is critical to ensure safety and prevent accidents.

What is a compressed gas?

Compressed gas is defined as, "a mixture of gases having, in a container, an absolute pressure exceeding 40 psi at 70°F (21.1°C); or a gas or mixture of gases having, in a container, an absolute pressure exceeding 104 psi at 130°F (54.4°C)."

Many hazards are commonly associated with working in and around compressed gases including:

  • Oxygen displacement
  • Fire & explosions
  • Toxic gas exposure
  • Physical hazards

Because of these hazards, standards have been put in place in order to mitigate injury and provide awareness to the hazards associated with compressed gases, equipment, control, and handling.

What are the 4 types of compressed gases?

Compressed gases can be categorized into four different types based on their properties and applications. These four types are:

  1. Flammable: These are gases that can catch fire easily and burn rapidly. Examples include acetylene, propane, and hydrogen.
  2. Inert Gas: These are gases that do not react with other substances and are used to control the environment during welding, cutting, and other industrial processes. Examples include argon, helium, and nitrogen.
  3. Toxic Gas: These are gases that can cause harm or death if inhaled or ingested. Examples include carbon monoxide, chlorine, and ammonia.
  4. Oxidizing Gas: These are gases that can promote combustion and can cause materials to burn more readily. Examples include oxygen and nitrous oxide.

Why is compressed gas dangerous?

Compressed gas can be dangerous for many reasons but one of the main reasons is due to its storage and high pressure. When gas is stored in specific environments under pressure the gas can escape with great force causing physical harm to those working near the gas or to the property surrounding it. 

In addition, some compressed gases can be toxic and can cause severe harm or fatality for anyone exposed to high concentrations. Serious negative health effects could occur such as long-term damage to respiratory systems, nervous damage, or asphyxiation.

Some compressed gases are also reactive and can cause explosions or fires when they come in contact with other substances or chemicals. Mixing incompatible gases can also cause a violent reaction and release of energy. In order to minimize the risks associated with compressed gases, individuals should understand how to safely handle these gases and adhere to proper protocol to safeguard themselves and those around them when working with the gases.

How to safely handle compressed gas cylinders?

Compressed gas cylinders and tanks are used to store flammable or inert gases. Many of these cylinders are often stored at extremely high pressures (around 2,000 psi). This represents a massive amount of potential energy. If the gas is suddenly released it is an immediate hazard to life and health. 

In addition the immediate release of compressed gas in an enclosed area can cause asphyxiation due to the mixture of the gas in the air quickly lowering the oxygen level. 

Potential compressed gas cylinder hazards include:

  • Weight: If cylinders fall or roll, their weight can trigger a hazard, do damage, and injure or even kill workers.
  • Threatening contents: Within compressed gas cylinders may be threatening contents that are flammable, explosive, or corrosive.
  • Projectile potential: Because compressed gas cylinders are pressurized, projectile potential is a concern. For example, if the valve breaks off the cylinder it can be projected like a rocket across the floor at dangerous speeds and destroying anything in its path.

10 Compressed Gas Safety Tips

When handling compressed gas cylinders of any size there are a few safety recommendations such as:

  1. Use the smallest practical cylinder size for a particular job
  2. Do not keep cylinders longer than the supplier recommends
  3. Do not drop cylinders or allow them to strike together
  4. Rough handling, including using cylinders as hammers can cause damage
  5. Do not strike an electric arc on a cylinder as this can weaken the cylinder
  6. Never interfere with valve threads or compressed gas safety devices
  7. Always get refill from a specialist when it comes time to change contents
  8. Always follow correct procedure for assembling and disassembling 
  9. Promptly remove combustible wastes from the work area
  10. Regular equipment maintenance can prevent hazardous in the workplace 

What are the OSHA guidelines for compressed gas?

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established several guidelines for the handling, storage, and use of compressed gas in the workplace. Here are some of the key OSHA guidelines for compressed gas:

  1. Labeling: All compressed gas containers must be labeled with the name of the gas, the hazard warning, and any safety precautions.

  2. Storage: Compressed gas containers must be stored in a well-ventilated area away from heat sources, open flames, or other sources of ignition. They must be properly secured and protected from damage.

  3. Handling: Compressed gas containers must be handled carefully, using appropriate lifting equipment or carts. They must not be dropped, rolled, or struck.

  4. Transport: Compressed gas containers must be transported securely and in accordance with OSHA regulations, using appropriate vehicles and shipping methods.

  5. Inspection: Compressed gas containers must be inspected regularly for signs of damage, corrosion, or leaks. Damaged or leaking containers must be removed from service immediately.

  6. Training: Employees who handle, use, or store compressed gas must receive appropriate training on the hazards and safety precautions associated with each gas. They must also be trained on the proper handling, storage, and emergency procedures.

  7. Emergency procedures: Employers must have written emergency procedures in place in case of a gas release or other emergency. Employees must be trained on these procedures and know how to respond in case of an emergency.

By following these OSHA guidelines, employers can ensure a safe working environment for employees who handle or work with compressed gas.

OSHA Compressed Gas Cylinder Storage Tips

Here are the OSHA compressed gas cylinder storage tips:

  • Keep the tanks away from the sun, flames, sparks, and areas that reach and exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Include firewalls for cylinders with contents that pose different types of hazards. (Oxidizers should not rest within twenty feet of gases which are flammable.) Separate the cylinders or opt for the wall.
  • Store acetylene cylinders upright always. The contents are unstable. If left on its side, the liquid acetone might leak out through the tank’s valve. This is a fire hazard.
  • Never use copper tubing or fittings with acetylene cylinders.
  • Cylinders should be secured so that they can’t cause injury or damage surrounding machinery. Use guards, chains, straps, or “dog bones” to avoid rolling or tipping cylinders. The weight of the cylinders should not exceed the max limit of any of these securing devices.
  • Do not remove the cylinder’s cap without the tank being secure.

How to Maintain Compressed Gas Cylinders

  • All cylinders should be properly marked to identify the contents.
  • Make sure valve protection caps are in place.
  • If cylinders are leaking, take them outdoors away from sparks or heat and slowly empty them.
  • Make sure to mark all empty cylinders (some companies use "MT").
  • Put a warning tag on cylinders that were leaking and notify the supplier.

Other precautions and DON'TS:

  •  Never mix gases in a cylinder or try to refill a compressed gas cylinder (best practice suggests contacting the supplier).
  • If a cylinder leaks or a valve is broken, tag the cylinder and contact a trained maintenance person or the supplier.
  • NEVER smoke around ANY compressed gas cylinder(s).
  • Don't use the top of the cylinder as a storage area for tools or material.

Compressed Gas Safety Standards

At CO2Meter we are fortunate to have forged great partner relationships with gas suppliers like Helget Gas Products, systems integrators like General Air Products as well as trade associations like the Compressed Gas Association (CGA), all of whom all stand by carbon dioxide safety as a key component to the services and standards that they offer.

And, when we think about key players when it comes to compressed gases, no association puts greater emphasis on the development and promotion of safety standards in the industry than the Compressed Gas Association. For more than 100 years, the CGA has continued to help promote, develop, and train individuals around the world on compressed gas safety and compliance.

The team at CO2Meter has been more than fortunate to partner with the CGA in getting the gas safety messaging out in the public realm as well as sharing valuable tools to our customers. 

Below, we have highlighted a few of the main Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and CGA references as they relate to compressed gas, safety, and equipment protocols.

Common Compressed Gas Standards

 Industry OSHA Standards Additional Resources
1910 Subpart H - Hazardous Materials

1910.101, Compressed gases (general requirements)

1910.104, Oxygen.

Related Information
1910 Subpart M - Compressed Gas and Compressed Air Equipment 1910.169, Air receivers. Related Information
1910 Subpart Q - Welding, Cutting and Brazing

1910.253, Oxygen-fuel gas welding and cutting.

1910.254, Arc welding and cutting.

Related Information
1910 Subpart T - Commercial Diving Operations

1910.430, Equipment.

Related Information

How can you protect yourself from compressed gases? 

CO2 Safety Alarm

When it comes to protecting yourself from compressed gases, gas detection safety devices are ideal and can provide protection for yourself, your employees, and your establishment by monitoring and assessing one of the four main gases: oxygen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or methane.

While these devices can typically come in two forms either portable gas detectors or fixed gas detectors - both options can be used to detect hazardous gas concentrations by audible and visual alarms should dangerous concentrations occur and indicate should a confined space be dangerous to enter.

For more information on choosing between a Fixed and Portable Gas Detector, read more here.

Compressed Gas Safety for Individual Gases



Carbon Dioxide 

Carbon Monoxide




Additional Flammable and Compressed Gas Resources:

What to do in a Compressed Gas Emergency?

Whether your company has just received a visit from a compliance officer or you are setting up a new facility, it's important to understand how to handle compressed gas cylinders and the safety precautions to take.

While each type of compressed gas has its own hazards, it is vital to understand that you should always read the label on the cylinder and the material safety sheet (MSDS) for specific safety instructions and information.

When it comes time to act fast in an emergency, such as a chemical fire or a gas cylinder leak you must be able to do the following:

  1. Evacuate the area at once (if you are not trained to handle the gas it is beyond your control)
  2. Alert other people in the area to the emergency
  3. Call the fire department immediately
  4. Obtain first aid and remove all contaminated clothes if you have been exposed to any hazardous chemicals

Please note: In most compressed gas emergencies, all major compressed gas suppliers have an emergency response team that can be activated by calling the number directly printed on the shipping document or MSDSs.

To view CO2Meter's best practice guide and whitepaper on standard operating procedure in the event of a gas leak, click here to download.

For more information on gas safety, monitoring, and educational training - contact a CO2Meter specialist at Sales@CO2Meter.com or (877) 678-4259.

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