Whenever gas cylinders are present at a worksite, all personnel involved in storing and handling the cylinders must be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. This blog discusses the PPE requirements under AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders, and emphasises the importance of ensuring that PPE is kept at well-identified location points and is always ready for use.
Types of personal protective equipment
Selecting the right PPE for each specific job task that involves gas cylinders is essential. The PPE you select will always be determined by conducting a risk assessment that includes consulting the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each of the gases you are using. The SDS will have a section that will outline the PPE that is required. Check the example below from a chlorine gas document.
Wear overalls, chemical goggles, full face shield, elbow-length impervious gloves. Use with adequate ventilation. If determined by a risk assessment an inhalation risk exists, wear an air-supplied mask meeting the requirements of AS/NZS 1715 and AS/NZS 1716.
We’ve listed below the PPE outlined in the Standard and included some key considerations when making your decision on what to use.
Workers should always wear eye protection when handling compressed gases. Ordinary safety glasses are not suitable because even Class 2.2 Non-toxic gases can cause eye damage if released suddenly from a cylinder. An uncontrolled release of compressed gas can dislodge metal shavings and create other dangerous projectiles. Check the impact resistance of the eyewear you are considering before making your decision.
When employees are working with toxic or corrosive gases like chlorine or ammonia they’ll need chemical goggles that dangerous gases cannot penetrate. You must always check the recommendations of the SDS and make sure the eye guards, goggles or face shield being used complies with AS/NZS 1337. And make sure the eyewear fits each of your workers properly: loose fitting goggles can cause accidents through slippage or cause workers to take them off prematurely.
Protective gloves should be worn when handling cylinders; again your decision will be based on the type of gases at the worksite and how they are being used. Working gloves should protect hands from abrasions, cuts, tears and punctures while transferring or moving cylinders. But when breaking transfers or transfilling gases like LPG (that create a thermal hazard), cold insulating gloves will be required. Protective gloves must comply with AS/NZS 2161.
Cylinders are heavy and have caused many fractures and other serious injuries to feet and toes. Workers should always be wearing protective footwear that complies with AS/NZS 2210.2. Refer to AS/NZS 2210.1 for advice on selecting and maintaining footwear.
You need to consider breathing apparatus that conforms with AS/NZS 1716 if you keep or handle toxic gases at your worksite. Also if there is any chance of an oxygen deficient atmosphere occurring. Depending on your worksite you might need self-contained chemical oxygen breathing apparatus or a continuous airline system.
The standard also recommends wearing protective clothing like overalls when moving or handling gas cylinders.
If hearing protection is required the ear guards must comply with AS/NZS 1270.
Care and maintenance of personal protective equipment
Safety is compromised and accidents occur when PPE is not returned to its location point at the end of a shift. There should always be sufficient PPE on-hand for incoming workers, so lost or damaged PPE must be reported without delay.
PPE must be kept clean and maintained. Contaminated clothing and other protective equipment should be washed and cleaned before storage or re-use. Self-contained breathing apparatus must be maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 1715.
Training staff to use PPE
Staff should be instructed to wear PPE like overalls, protective gloves, safety footwear and eye protection when moving or handling cylinders. Hearing protection should be carried at all times for use if needed on the worksite.
Staff would be trained according to their job role and the training must include the chemical properties of the gases and the hazards associated with the cylinders. They will need to know:
- The type of PPE to use
- How it will protect them from gas cylinder hazards
- Their personal responsibility under the law
- Where to find the PPE
- How to use it properly
- How to clean it and keep it safely maintained
- What to do if there’s no available PPE when they arrive at the job site
- What to do if they damage or lose their PPE
When self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is provided for responding to a gas leak or air deficient environment, intensive emergency training that include simulated drills would be required.
If you have compressed gases in cylinders at your worksite and need detailed information about how to manage the risks and chemical hazards associated with the cylinders, please download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. The book is perfect for WHS Managers responsible for risk management and Dangerous Goods storage. Download it and read it today by clicking on the image below: