5 essentials for gas bottle safety in the workplace

Dec 26, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Storing and handling gas bottles safely at your workplace is an essential part of complying with WHS legislation in Australia. This blog shares our 5 best tips for gas bottle safety in the workplace and is based on the relevant Australian Standard.

TIP: for more information about storing and handling gas cylinders safely at work, download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: compliance and safety requirements.

 

1. Restrain cylinders

Most gas cylinders have long, slim designs and can easily fall or be knocked over. You must ensure that gas bottles are always upright and restrained with straps or chains just above the cylinder’s midpoint — and tight enough so they can’t slip off.

Unloading and transfer

Cylinders should always be unloaded or transferred using mechanical lifting devices (eg, forklifts) or trolleys that keep the cylinder upright and securely restrained. Using lifting devices also prevents workers from:

  • Lifting or carrying cylinders by the valve or cap
  • Dropping or throwing cylinders from trucks
  • Rolling cylinders along the ground.

Handling and usage

When in use, cylinders should be secured on a gas bottle trolley that has hose hook, ratchet strap, and enclosed sides. Maintenance and welding work should be done so that cylinders are protected from possible impact from vehicles and falling objects.

Storage

When gas cylinders aren’t being used they should be stored securely in a gas bottle cage. Each cylinder should be upright and individually restrained with a safety strap or chain. Valves should be closed, and attachments or gas appliances disconnected then removed. Cylinders should also have safety caps in place.

IMPORTANT: A suitable trolley or lifting device shall be used for moving cylinders in an upright manner, with the cylinders securely restrained, and in a manner that cannot cause damage to the valve. Section 5.2.1 (o)(ii) AS 4332-2004

2. Segregate gases from incompatible substances

Compressed gases are classed as hazardous chemicals and must be segregated according to their hazard classification and kept away from incompatible substances.

According to the Australian Standard, the gases listed below (flammable, toxic and oxidising gases) must be segregated from each other by at least 3 metres. More specifically:

  • Class 2.1 flammable gases (acetylene, LPG)
  • Class 2.2 (5.1) non-flammable, oxidizing gases (oxygen)
  • Class 2.3 toxic gases (chlorine)

The segregation can also be achieved by installing a wall at least 1 metre higher than the tallest cylinder, and made from non-combustible material. The wall must be impervious to gas vapours.

Areas in which cylinders are kept shall be clear of combustible materials, vegetation and refuse, for a distance of not less than 3 m from any cylinder. Section 5.2.1 (d) ii) AS 4332—2004

3. Treat empty gas cylinders as if they were full

Empty cylinders still contain residual gas and are vulnerable to ruptures and gas leaks. They must be treated in exactly the same way as if they were full.

Make sure your empties are labeled correctly and separated from full cylinders. Empty cylinders must also be segregated according to their hazard class.

IMPORTANT: All cylinders are regarded as full unless gas-freed by the manufacturer or not containing a valve. Section 1.1 AS 4332—2004

4. Secure gas bottle cages from unauthorised access

Gas cylinders have a dangerous history of involvement in skylarking and pranks (particularly by new workers and young people). AS 4332-2004 -  The storage and handling of gases in cylinders requires that gas bottle cages are fenced and otherwise secured to prevent untrained and unauthorised people accessing cylinders. Gases stored in the lab can be particularly vulnerable.

Apart from the examples listed below, untrained staff or contractors who don’t understand the full dangers of the gases stored onsite, may inadvertently use or handle a cylinder incorrectly. This could lead to their own death from asphyxiation, exposure to toxic and corrosive gases, or a catastrophic fire and explosion.

 

Example of how hazardous gases are misused

Helium

Inhaling gas to make your voice sound funny.

Despite being depicted as cool on TV and in movies, inhaling helium displaces oxygen in the lungs the same way as drowning. It’s very easy to die from asphyxiation.

O2

Pure oxygen intended for medicinal use and first aid, is often misused as a ‘hangover cure’.

Apart form oxygen toxicity, breathing pure oxygen under pressure can cause  lung damage. Pure O2 is extremely flammable and misuse could also cause fires/explosions.

N2O (Laughing Gas)

Laughing gas is often misappropriated and used as a recreational drug.

Nitrous oxide is an anaesthetic gas that is addictive and habit forming. Breathing N2O can cause immediate asphyxiation or impair workers, rendering them unable to safely perform their duties in the workplace.

Misusing cylinders

Dispensing gas to propel things.

The sudden release of any gas under pressure can easily kill a person.

IMPORTANT: Cylinders shall not be used for any purposes other than those for which they were designed. Section 5.2.1 (f) AS 4332—2004

5. Use correct signage

Make sure your gas cylinder stores have compliant and clear signage including  mandatory placards. Gases of different hazard classifications will each require a different placard. Required warning signs and placards include:

  1. A warning sign to prohibit smoking and other sources of ignition —  DANGER: NO SMOKING, NO IGNITION SOURCES.
  2. A warning sign to restrict entry — RESTRICTED AREA, AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY.

Mandatory placards should be placed outside the storage area, and far enough away to adequately warn someone of the gas hazards before they enter the cylinder store. Signage must be permanently installed and unable to be moved or transferred.

Every premises on which gases are kept shall be placarded in accordance with regulatory requirements. Section 6.4 AS 4332-2004

Next steps

If you need a full understanding of the legal requirements surrounding gas bottle safety at your workplace, download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. We outline the risks and hazards of storing and handling compressed gases as well as a methodology for introducing safe storage and handling control measures. Download it now by clicking on the image below:

gas cylinder storage: Compliance and safety requirements

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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