Compressed gases in cylinders are Dangerous Goods and must be stored correctly to avoid injuries and workplace accidents. Many gases are toxic, corrosive, flammable and explosive so they present a serious risk of injury to workers. In this blog we are talking about staff training — because it’s not good enough to just have compliant gas bottle trolleys, PPE and gas cylinder stores, your staff need to know how to use them to store the cylinders correctly. Every time.
Hazards associated with gas cylinders
Gas cylinders are awkward. They’re heavy and their long slim design means they are vulnerable to being knocked or falling over. They’re also difficult to carry and can cause manual handling injuries like sprains and fractures. And very often the gases they contain are volatile (toxic, corrosive, flammable or self-reactive) so they can’t be shaken around too much or they could start decomposing and reacting dangerously.
When a gas bottle falls over or is impacted by a falling object, the cylinder can be punctured or the valve broken off at the neck. When this happens the gas is released rapidly and the cylinder can start to spin wildly, and even launch into the air like a torpedo. If the gas is toxic or corrosive workers can be killed or critically injured from exposure, and flammable gases can ignite from static electricity generated by the uncontrolled gas discharge.
Storing gas cylinders safely
Because there are so many hazards associated with gas cylinders, the Australian government has strict requirements for storing them safely. According to AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders, gas bottles must be stored upright, inside a secure cage or locked storage facility (to prevent unauthorised access), and individually restrained with safety straps or chains. Cylinders valves must be closed, attachments (eg, welding torches) removed, and valve caps in place.
The cylinders must also be sorted and segregated within the stores according to hazard class, and incompatible gases (plus other Dangerous Goods) must be kept at least 3 metres apart. At the same time empty cylinders need to be separated from full cylinders, labeled and stored in their own store (segregated by hazard class).
TIP: To learn more about the requirements for safely storing gas cylinders why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements.
Mandatory Training Requirements
Apart from detailing how to actually store the cylinders, AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders has a number of mandatory requirements for training staff. These include:
All personnel who handle gas cylinders (including unloading them or returning to cylinders stores) must be fully conversant with the chemical properties of the specific gases being used and stored. They must be familiar with the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) issued by the supplier and know where to access the documents onsite.
Staff need to know the requirements under the law and the prescribed safe handling procedures. This includes storing cylinders upright, keeping them individually restrained, making sure valves are closed and caps in place. They also need to know that unauthorised personnel are prohibited from entering cylinder stores.
Safe Handling Methods
Staff and contractors need to know specific manual handling procedures for heavy cylinders and how to correctly use mechanical lifting devices and gas bottle trolleys. They should be given specific training on what to do if they drop a cylinder, encounter a damaged valve, or cylinder without a label.
Safety Rules of the Site
Anyone visiting the site needs to know the hazards associated with the gases in cylinders likely to be encountered on the premises. It’s essential that staff and visiting contractors know the safety rules of the site, including restrictions on movement, access and prohibited activities. It would include ensuring that potential ignition sources (especially static electricity that can be generated from personal electronics) is not taken near cylinder stores.
Personnel need to know how to respond to an emergency including gas leaks, explosions, or fires. Emergency response training will includes immediate first aid measures and the location of first aid equipment or safety showers. The training should include evacuation procedures and regular drills.
Personal Protective Equipment
Providing staff and contractors with PPE is useless if they don’t know where it is or how to use it. The Standard specifies that all personnel handling/storing cylinders must know the correct use of personal protective equipment as well as its care and maintenance.
Relevant personnel must be re-trained regularly to ensure they maintain sufficient safety knowledge and competency. Additionally this should occur whenever:
- Work methods or safety procedures have been changed
- New gases are introduced to the worksite
- Staff have spent a significant time away from their usual duties
- Staff are observed not following procedures or demonstrating a substandard performance
If you handle and store gas cylinders at your site and need more information about how to create a safe workplace and comply with AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders we strongly encourage you to download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: compliance and safety requirements. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below.