3 deadly mistakes staff make when handling compressed gases

Sep 3, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

This blog focuses on three common mistakes that staff make when handling compressed gases in cylinders. The consequences of these errors are often fatal and the saddest part is that many of these instances could have been completely avoided. Here at STOREMASTA we take our role as Dangerous Goods Advisors very seriously and urge you to read this blog and make sure this doesn’t happen to workers handling gas cylinders at your worksite.

1. Not following procedures

A worker was checking cylinders for leaks when one of the cylinders began to rapidly dispense gas. The cylinder was loose and the uncontrolled release of the gas propelled the cylinder into the air, sadly killing the worker from impact injuries.

AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders has a strict requirement that all staff and contractors handling gas cylinders must be instructed on the applicable safety regulations and safe handling procedures. In this case the worker should have known and made sure that:

  1. Each gas cylinder was stored upright
  2. Each gas cylinder was individually restrained with a safety strap or chain
  3. Each gas cylinder was stored with the valve closed and cylinder cap in place

Had these three requirements all been followed and the cylinders correctly restrained — it is unlikely the accident would have occurred the way it did. Possibly the worker would not have been killed. Even worse it was probably not the worker checking for leaks who made the error.

This blog isn’t about establishing blame, it’s about analysing a situation to reduce the likelihood of it occurring again. Maybe at your workplace. In a sense honouring the fallen worker so that his death might save the life of someone in the future.

Staff training and operating procedures sometimes overlook the fact that things aren’t always as they are supposed to be, and has not scope for rectifying faults. So make sure you:

  • Train your staff to correctly store and restrain cylinders
  • Train your staff to check that restraints are in place before conducting maintenance work
  • Train your staff to rectify or (depending on their job role) report gas cylinders that are not stored and restrained correctly.

2. Not using correct PPE

A worker was changing an LPG cylinder on a forklift when the gas began to rapidly disperse. Wearing only cotton gloves, he grabbed the cylinder and tried to close the valve. He received frostbite injuries and 2nd degree burns from the liquified gas.

LPG presents a thermal hazard and this worker should have been wearing cold insulating gloves when breaking transfer connections. Of course we have no idea whether this worker was only given cotton gloves to wear or if he was improvising because he had lost or forgotten the correct PPE.

As an employer make sure that you check the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each gas you are using onsite and provide your staff with the PPE they need to handle the gases safely. You must then implement adequate training so that your staff and contractors know:

  • The chemical properties of the gases they are handling
  • The correct PPE they need, and how to use it
  • Where the PPE is stored onsite
  • How to maintain and care for their PPE
  • What to do if PPE is damaged or missing

As we mentioned in item 1, staff training needs to cover what to do when things are not in a perfect state — like when PPE is missing or broken.

3. Not fully understanding the dangers of compressed gases

Three workers were carrying LPG cylinders they had unloaded from a truck down some stairs. One worker slipped and dropped the cylinder he was carrying. It was propelled forward down the stairs striking another worker in front who was also carrying cylinders. Two of the workers were killed and the other seriously injured from the subsequent explosion as the cylinders impacted one another.

This terrible accident could have been avoided if the requirements of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders had been followed; and the cylinders were unloaded and handled using mechanical lifting devices.

Many times staff deviate from operating procedures and safe work methods because they don’t fully understand or appreciate the dangers of the compressed gases and cylinders they are handling. So as an employee it’s essential that you:

  • Provide your staff with the mechanical lifting devices and gas bottle trolleys so they can safely handle gas cylinders
  • Train your staff how to use them correctly and not deviate from standard operating procedures
  • Use a range of different scenarios in the training so they learn how to use the mechanical lifting devices in different circumstances
  • Make sure staff understand the dangers and risks to their personal safety while handling gas cylinders

Next Steps

For more advice on how to avoid workplace accidents and train your staff to safely store and handle gas cylinders, download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. We explain the requirements of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders in clear, easy-to-understand text. To download this eBook, click on the image below.

gas cylinder storage: Compliance and safety requirements

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping businesses reduce the risk that Dangerous Goods pose upon their employees, property and the environment through safe and compliant dangerous goods storage solutions.

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