Gas bottle safety in the workplace

Aug 14, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

Compressed gases stored at high pressure in cylinders, present significant dangers and hazards to workplaces all over Australia. This blog looks at gas bottle safety: how to store cylinders safely as well as handling tips specified by AS 4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders.  We’ll begin by quickly reviewing some of the hazards.

Hazards

Two main dangers surround gas bottles; the health and physiochemical hazards of the gases, and the hazards caused by the cylinders.

Gas health and physiochemical hazards include:

  • Exposure to toxic and corrosive gases (chlorine, ammonia)
  • Asphyxiation by inert gases (argon, helium, neon and nitrogen) or other asphyxiants like LPG that deplete oxygen levels in the air
  • Fires and explosions from flammable gases (LPG, methane, butane)
  • Dangerously reactive gases (acetylene) that spontaneously combust
  • Cold wounds and frostbite injuries from cryogenic or liquefied gases (nitrogen, LPG)

Cylinder hazards include:

  • Strains, fractures and other manual handling injuries while moving bulky, heavy cylinders
  • The long slim shape of cylinders make them unstable and they can be easily knocked over
  • Cylinders exposed to heat can cause rupturing or explosions
  • Gas leaking from damaged or worn valves and fittings
  • Accidental rapid release causing fires and explosions, or launching the cylinder into a torpedo-type affect.

QUICK TIP: To learn how to manage and control risks when storing gas cylinders at your workplace, download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and Safety Requirements.

Storage

For optimum safety and compliance, all gas cylinder stores should meet the requirements of the Australian Standard AS 4332—2004 The storage and handling of gases in cylinders. According to this standard, cylinders must:

  • Be located outdoors, at ground level wherever possible
  • Not be exposed to equipment and machinery that generates heat
  • Be clear of vegetation, combustibles and refuse
  • Have a solid base that can withstand any type of weather
  • Be fenced and secured against unauthorised access
  • Be naturally ventilated or by a mechanical ventilation system
  • Be strictly NO SMOKING
  • Have flammable gases, toxic gases and oxidising gases segregated and separated
  • Not contain ignition sources. And in the case of flammable gases — fittings or equipment that generate static electricity
  • Have Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each of the gases as well as appropriate first aid facilities nearby
  • Be correctly signed with safety labels, hazard statements, and placards
  • Ensure that cylinders are stored upright and restrained by chains or safety straps. Valves are closed, attachments removed, and safety caps in place
  • Have bollards or crash barriers if there is any risk of cylinders being hit by vehicles.
  • Treat empty cylinders with the same level of care as full cylinders, separating them from full cylinders into their own (well-marked) storage area

QUICK TIP: In Australia all compressed gases are classed as Hazardous Chemicals as well as Dangerous Goods. You’ll need to make sure that your gas stores are properly separated from incompatible hazardous chemicals as well as other gas classes identified in AS 4332—2004.

Handling

All gas bottles must be handled with care to prevent manual handling injuries as well as damage to the cylinder. Your staff must be properly trained so they understand the dangers of the gases contained in the cylinders as well as correct handling procedures.

The following handling procedures are essential under the Australian Standard:

  • Cylinder valves must be closed and safety caps in place when moving cylinders.
  • Trolleys, forklifts and other mechanical lifting devices must always be used for moving cylinders.
  • Precautions should be taken to prevent a cylinder from falling or being knocked over — use only trolleys and lifting devices that have individual safety straps or other restraints.
  • Never drop or roll cylinders over the side of trucks or from other delivery/storage platforms.
  • Don’t apply excessive force to the cylinder valve — eg, using the valve for lifting or carrying.
  • Never use a gas or the cylinder for anything outside its real purpose (eg, using cylinders as rollers)

Additionally you should ensure your procedures and staff training includes the following industry best practices:

  • Don’t place objects on cylinders and make sure welding torches and other attachments are removed when not being used.
  • Don’t try and catching falling gas cylinders. Let it drop and get to a safe distance. Approach fallen cylinders cautiously checking the valve and regulator for damage.
  • Wear PPE suited to both the gas and cylinder type — eg, leather gloves, safety shoes and eye guards.

BEST PRACTICE: Document cylinder safety procedures as well as details of staff inductions and training sessions. Update safety skills and knowledge by providing adequate supervision, regular toolbox talks and safety forums.

Next Steps

If you need more information about how to store gas bottles at your workplace and comply with WHS legislation and Australian Standards, why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and Safety Requirements. The eBook is a practical resource for WHS Managers needing clear and actionable advice to manage the risks associated with storing gas cylinders. Download and read it today by clicking on the link below: 

gas cylinder storage: Compliance and safety requirements

Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Adviser. He loves helping business 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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