Controlling Gas Cylinder Hazards

Dec 27, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

This blog looks at how to use a risk management methodology to control the hazards associated with gas cylinders kept at your workplace. Because compressed gases stored under pressure in cylinders present a complex range of hazards, a consistent and reliable risk management approach is necessary to ensure that all the hazards are carefully assessed and controlled.

Gas Cylinders present a complex range of hazards

The hazards that surround gases in cylinders have different layers of complexities. First you have the chemical properties of the gases themselves eg, workers exposed to toxic and corrosive gases can quickly die or suffer terrifying injuries and chemical burns.

The second layer is the physical nature of the cylinders: their tall and slim design means they are easily knocked over and broken, now you have a gas leak. Leaked gases (aside from the toxics and corrosives) can ignite, explode or replace the oxygen content in the air creating a deadly asphyxiation hazard.

Still another layer exists because the cylinders are heavy and awkward, potentially causing physical injuries from incorrect handling or impact injuries from a uncontrolled release of pressurised gas.

Using a Risk Management Methodology

For this reason STOREMASTA use a Risk Management Methodology (developed in-house) to ensure that every risk associated with the compressed gases is identified and controlled. The methodology has four easy to follow steps, but in this blog we’ll be focusing on Step 3: CONTROL. In summary it looks like this:

STEP 1 IDENTIFY - Physically identify every gas cylinder at your worksite; mark locations on a sitemap; take note of gas types, cylinder types, quantities held, empties; use the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to identify the chemical and physiochemical hazards.

STEP 2 ASSESS - Consider how the gases and cylinders are received, handled and stored; identify all possible dangerous incidents that could occur onsite (fires, explosions, gas cloud, toxic gas exposure); assign each dangerous incident a risk score out of 10.

STEP 3 CONTROL - Prioritise the hazards with the highest risk score; use the Hierarchy of Control to consider the the best control measures to either eliminate or reduce the harm associated with each hazard; implement each control measure.

STEP 4 SUSTAIN - Conduct another risk assessment to ensure no new hazards have been introduced; review your risk assessment and control measures periodically to sustain WHS compliance and safety at your workplace.

IMPORTANT: The methodology is only effective if all four essential steps are completed in order.

Understanding the Hierarchy of Controls

Once you’ve identified all the gas cylinder hazards at your worksite and given each a risk score out of 10. Now you need to control each of the hazards, starting with those that have the highest risk scores.

STOREMASTA use an industry standard practice called the Hierarchy of Control to determine which control measures will be the most effective (and the most feasible to implement). It has five levels which should all be applied to each hazard. Let’s see how it works by supposing you are using LPG cylinders as fuel for forklifts in your packaging warehouse. LPG is flammable, an asphyxiant, and presents a thermal hazard as well.

Level 1: Elimination

The most effective control measure is to eliminate the hazard completely. Make a list of all the ways you completely eliminate using LPG onsite like electric pallet trucks, or closing down the warehouse and outsourcing the packaging offsite.

NOTE: Not every possibility is feasible but it’s important to apply each level to your hazards so you can make a well informed decision.

Level 2: Substitution

If you cannot eliminate the hazard could you replace the gas with something less harmful — like using diesel powered forklifts?

Level 3: Engineering controls

Consider how you could re-design the workplace to reduce the amount of employees who are exposed to the LPG hazards? Could you isolate LPG cylinder stores and forklift refueling areas?

Level 4: Administrative controls

Level 4 administrative controls cover operating procedures and staff training. What safe operating procedures could you implement to reduce the likelihood of an accident with the LPG cylinders? Keeping unauthorised personnel away from LPG stores and banning ignition sources like personal electronics are two examples.

Level 5: Personal Protective equipment

PPE is the least effective control measure and should only be used in conjunction with other control measures. In this instance you could make it a requirement for staff changing cylinders to wear protective overalls and insulated gloves.

Implementing Control Measures

Once you’ve considered every level in the hierarchy of control now make your decision based on what will be the most effective. In this example Level 1 is impossible because we can’t shut down the warehouse and electric pallet trucks don’t have enough lift range.

Level 2 is also impractical because it would be expensive to change over the fuel tanks and a new hazard (diesel fuel) is now introduced. The most appropriate measures would be a combination of Level 3 4 and 5: isolating cylinder stores and ensuring that staff receive thorough and regular training. Plus handling staff wearing protective overalls and insulated gloves. You would also examine your operating procedures.

As you work through and implement control measures for each hazard, don’t forget to follow through the entire risk management methodology. You’ll need to complete STEP 4 SUSTAIN to ensure that no new hazards have been introduced and compliance is sustained.

Next Steps

Would you like to know more about using the STOREMASTA Risk Management Methodology to control the gas cylinder hazards at your worksite? Why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. Using real world examples and case studies we demonstrate the methodology in use. Read it today.

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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