Safe storage of gas cylinders in the workplace

Originally published August 20, 2018 03:53:13 AM

Compressed gas in cylinders create a range of hazards in a workplace, and an important part of managing the risks associated with cylinders is to make sure they are stored safely and correctly. This blog looks at AS4332—2004 The storage and handling of gases in cylinders and discusses the recommendations and requirements presented in the Standard. More specifically we’ll be discussing:

  1. The best location for your gas cylinder stores
  2. How to secure and restrain cylinders
  3. Correctly segregating and separating cylinders
  4. Mandatory signage at cylinders stores

IMPORTANT: Cylinder stores must also have first aid stations appropriate for the gases being used — toxic and corrosive gases will also require eye wash stations, safety showers or plunge baths.

1. Storing gas cylinders in a suitable location

Wherever possible, compressed gases in cylinders should NOT be stored indoors. Cylinder stores need good ventilation that keeps oxygen at safe levels and escaped gases within explosion limits.  So outdoors is always the best place.

Any leaked gas becomes an immediate hazard (especially if the gas is toxic, corrosive or flammable), and when stored outdoors, leaked gases will often disperse safely into the atmosphere. But indoors (especially if the gas is denser than air) gases will begin to accumulate.  

Workers entering an indoor area contaminated by a gas leak could:

  • Be fatally exposed to a toxic or corrosive gas
  • Be asphyxiated by an inert gas that has replaced the oxygen in the room
  • Unknowingly cause an explosion by generating static electricity or using tools that produce sparks or flames

When selecting a suitable space at your worksite for cylinders stores you should make sure the area is not exposed to plant or production operations that generate heat or other ignition sources. Additionally the area requires a 3 metre clearance from any combustible materials, vegetation and  refuse.

Finally choose a location away from building windows, doors, air vents and ducting; the Australian Standard requires a minimum clearance of 1 metre.

IMPORTANT: If outdoor storage is not possible a mechanical ventilation system using exhaust fans and ducting may need to be installed.  You may also require air quality monitoring controls and alarms.

2. Correctly restraining cylinders

Most gas cylinders have a long slim design as well as being heavy and awkward. So there is high possibility of cylinders falling or being knocked over. The Australian Standard requires that cylinders must be securely restrained in a way that cannot cause damage to valves or regulators.

The best way of achieving this is to install a sturdy gas bottle cage, made from heavy duty materials. The cage will have a secure racking system, safety straps and bump rails (to prevent damage from forklifts or other traffic).

Apart from adequately restraining cylinders, a gas bottle cage can be locked to secure the cylinders against unauthorised access. This is another essential requirement of the Standard.

3. Grouping cylinders correctly

Cylinders should always be grouped according to their Hazard Class and correctly segregated from incompatible gases and hazardous chemicals. The Standard requires (as a minimum) that the following gases are separated by at least 3 metres:

  • Class 2.1 flammable gases
  • Class 2.2 (5.1) non-flammable, oxidizing gases
  • Class 2.3 toxic gases

This also applies to empty cylinders which should be separated from full cylinders, labeled and stored at another location point. Your empty cylinder store should be treated in exactly the same way as full cylinders: segregated properly, restrained and stored upright with the valves closed.

4. Using correct signage at cylinders stores

Like all Hazardous Chemicals and Dangerous Goods, gas cylinder stores need clear signage that complies with the current WHS Regulation in your state or territory. Additionally you should refer to the Code of Practice for Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals released by SafeWork Australia.

In brief cylinder stores require mandatory placards outside the storage area (far enough away) to warn someone before entering the cylinder store. These placards must be:

  • Permanently installed and unable to be moved or transferred
  • Mounted at eye level
  • Kept clear from moveable objects like open windows, racks and trolleys
  • Placed where there is enough lighting for the signs to be visible
  • Kept clean and in good repair

The placards used will depend on the hazard class of the gas and will be a combination of pictograms (graphical representation of the hazard class), signal words (DANGER, WARNING), hazard statements (Highly Flammable) and precautionary statements (store locked up in a well-ventilated place). You’ll also need Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each gas kept in a Manifest Cabinet close to the gas cylinder storage area.

Next Steps

Storing cylinders correctly is key to managing the risks associated with compressed gases. To learn more about the hazards of gas cylinders and your legal obligations as an employer, why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and Safety Requirements. We unpack AS 4332—2004 into clear, actionable advice for WHS and Compliance Managers. 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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