Gases stored in cylinders introduce a complex set of hazards to any workplace. Careful risk assessment and emergency planning is required to minimise the risk of harm to workers or other personnel encountering gas cylinders at your worksite. This blog provides an introduction of the emergency planning process and the requirements of Section 6 of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders.
Safe workplace design
Emergency planning always begins with preventative measures. You’ll conduct a thorough risk assessment which identifies the hazards presents at the workplace and the severity of dangerous incidents likely (or even possible) of occurring. When gas cylinders are present at the workplace you’ll be listing each and every cylinder on site, what it contains, where it is stored, and how it is handled.
Now with a list of possible dangerous incidents involving gas cylinders, you will begin introducing control measures to reduce the likelihood of those incidents occurring (or minimise the harm if they do). Some known control measures for gas cylinder stores and handling areas include:
1. Gas Cylinder Stores
The way you store your cylinders contributes to safe workplace design. Wherever possible locate your gas cylinders stores outside, and we recommend a heavy duty gas bottle cage with bump rails, restraint bars and security chains. AS4332-2004 requires that gas cylinders stores must be:
- On the ground floor
- Constructed from non-combustible materials
- Fenced and secured against unauthorised access
- At least 3 metres from combustibles, vegetation, and refuse
- At least 1 metre from building openings (doors, windows, vents, ducting)
- Away from ignition sources and anything that produces radiant heat
- Constructed so that the cylinders are always upright, restrained, and protected from impact
2. First Aid Stations
Setting up first aid stations near your gas cylinder stores is essential. The first aid stations must be in a clean area and contain all the equipment necessary to respond to a dangerous incident involving compressed gases and cylinders. Depending on the types of gases used at the workplace, your first aid station may require:
- Safety showers: a clearly identified safety shower activated by a single-action, delivering a consistent flow of water. The safety shower should be easily accessed in an emergency and be wide enough so the water contacts the entire body.
- Eye wash stations: a highly visible eye wash station, easily accessed in a chemical emergency. The eye wash station should deliver a soft (and consistent) flow of water to both eyes at the same time.
- Emergency PPE: depending on the gases used you may require emergency PPE eg, face masks and self-contained breathing apparatus. PPE should be stored in a secure area but still be easily accessible to workers in an emergency.
- Register of hazardous chemicals: a list of all the gases in the work area including the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each. The register must be able to be accessed quickly.
3. Warning Placards
Ensure your gas cylinder stores and handling areas have correct warning placards and precautionary signs. These will include at a minimum:
- DANGER: NO SMOKING, NO IGNITION SOURCES.
- RESTRICTED AREA, AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY
You’ll also need the pictograms for each hazard class eg, Class 2.1 Flammable Gases.
4. Other control measures
Depending on the size of the workplace, plus the amount and type of gases being used your workplace design might also consider:
- Installing alarms connected directly to emergency services
- Improving access routes for fire trucks and their firefighting equipment
- How you will contain any leaks, spills, fire hose run-off
- When you will place your emergency plan and manifest of hazardous chemicals
Emergency Response Plan
A detailed plan for combatting emergencies needs to be prepared in consultation with emergency services, gas suppliers, and relevant regulatory authorities. The depth of your emergency plan will depend on a number of factors including:
- The types of gases being used and in what quantities
- Whether toxic and corrosive gases are present onsite
- The potential for fires and explosions
- The size of the worksite and how many workers or personnel could be affected
- The proximity of adjacent properties and any environmental concerns
- Ease of access by emergency services, as well as response times to isolated worksites
Manifest of Hazardous Chemicals
Accompanying your emergency response plan you’ll also require a manifest of hazardous chemicals. It is a written summary of the hazardous chemicals (including cylinders types, quantities and locations) at the worksite. The manifest is created specifically for emergency responders and the plan should be lodged (along with the Emergency Response Plan) with your emergency services provider.
The Emergency Response Plan and the Manifest of Hazardous Chemicals must be reviewed (at a minimum) and updated whenever:
- New gases are introduced to the workplace or job site
- Gas quantities increase or decrease and change the level of risk
- Changes in management or significant staff turnover
- The layout or storage areas on the job site change
- Notifications from the supplier about a change to the chemical properties of the gases or the physical properties of the cylinders
- Near misses, safety incidents or observation that staff are not following safety procedures.
IMPORTANT: Always check the WHS Regulation in your state and territory for full details on preparing your Manifest of Hazardous Chemicals.
Staff induction and training
Staff training is an essential requirement of the Standard and an important factor in emergency planning. All personnel likely to be involved in an emergency need to be familiar with the contents of the Emergency Plan as well as understand their role when responding to a dangerous incident. Depending on their job role, the training could include:
- Investigating unsafe gas level alarms
- Responding to gas leaks
- How to use emergency response PPE
- First aid response following exposure to toxic or corrosive gases (helping co-workers or treating themselves)
- Location of hazardous chemicals register and manifest
- How to operate safety showers and eye wash stations
- Response to fires and explosions
- Location of firefighting equipment and how to use it
- What to do with dropped, heated or damaged cylinders
- Emergency evacuation points and muster stations
IMPORTANT: Staff training must be ongoing and each staff member supervised and monitored to ensure they are following safety instructions correctly.
For more detailed information about how to manage the risks and hazards associated with the gas cylinders, please download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. The eBook introduces the risk management and planning process by applying real examples of gas cylinder hazards and safety incidents to a tested methodology. Read it today and learn how to control the cylinder risks at your own workplace.