Training staff and contractors for gas cylinder safety

Dec 27, 2018 Posted by Walter Ingles

An independent plumbing contractor and 6 other contractors were critically injured when they entered a storeroom on a construction site. There were no warning signs or placards outside the storeroom, and none of the contractors knew the storeroom contained 80 argonite cylinders waiting to be installed into the fire protection system. The cylinders were standing upright, loose and unrestrained. They did not have safety caps placed over their valves.

As one cylinder was knocked over, its neck was immediately broken off and the high pressure compressed gas began to shoot out. This uncontrolled gas release caused the cylinder to launch like a missile into the air, impacting another cylinder (which also fell and had its neck broken off too). Eventually 66 cylinders began flying about the room, killing one man, injuring the other 6 contractors and causing catastrophic damage to the construction site.

This terrible incident occurred in the UK, but is a salient example of the importance of training staff to store and handle gas cylinders correctly, PLUS informing contractors of the cylinder hazards they are likely to encounter when entering a worksite.

Our blog discusses the essential requirements under Section 5.3 Personnel Training of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders and ensuring that any person who enters your worksite receives training about the hazards associated with the gases in cylinders likely to be encountered while on your premises.

Training employees and site personnel

All staff working with gas cylinders must receive sufficient training so they understand the chemical properties of the gases they are handling. This would include familiarisation with the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each gas and being able to locate it quickly (most likely from the Manifest of Hazardous Chemicals). The training must include at a minimum:

  • Applicable safety regulations (storing cylinders upright, prohibited activities at gas cylinders stores, individually restraining cylinders, ban on smoking and creating static electricity)
  • Safe handling procedures (unloading with mechanical lifting devices, never dropping or rolling cylinders from trucks)
  • Physical hazards of the cylinders and specific manual handling procedures for heavy cylinders (correctly using gas bottle trolleys and cylinder restraints)
  • Location of first aid equipment (how to use it in the event of injury or gas exposure)
  • Mandatory PPE (where it is, how to use it, how to maintain and care for it)
  • Emergency procedures (what to do if there is a gas leak, fire, chemical reaction or gas cloud, explosion, cylinder rupture)
  • Evacuation drills and other simulated emergency exercises

IMPORTANT: The list above identifies the minimum training requirements under AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders. Your own risk assessment of the gases in cylinders at your worksite will dictate any additional training that may be required.

Training contractors

The standard requires that all contractors and their staff must receive safety training appropriate to the specific tasks they are performing while at your worksite. This training would include:

Safety rules of the site

General safety rules that apply to everyone (eg, restricted areas, prohibited activities, hearing protection zones, speed limits) and specific rules that apply specifically to the contractors and the tasks they are performing (eg, low voltage tools, additional restricted areas, wearing visitor ID cards).

Conditions and obligations of work permits 

Contractors must know and understand their obligations of any work permits in place — this includes confined space entry permits.

Gas Cylinder Hazards

If a contractor or their employees are likely to encounter gases in cylinders at your worksite, they must be given training about the chemical hazards of the gases and the physicochemical hazards of the cylinders.

Emergency procedures

Site contractors and their staff need to know what to do in an emergency. They should know the location of first aid equipment, emergency showers, emergency PPE (eg, breathing apparatus), fire fighting equipment, muster points, and emergency exits.

REMEMBER: The training should relate to the specific tasks the employee will undertake while onsite. For example, an electrical contractor might be notified of the location of Class 2.1 Flammable Gas stores and be given instructions on keeping work activities and equipment that might generate static electricity or sparks at least 3 metres away. They wouldn’t need to be shown how to isolate an acetylene cylinder in another area of the worksite they won’t be visiting.

Retraining staff and contractors

Your overall approach to safety training must include a mechanism for retraining at regular intervals. It is not enough to provide an employee with a 30 minute safety induction and then expect they will carry out their duties perfectly for the next 10 years.

The Standard specifies that relevant personnel must be retrained at regular intervals to ensure their capability is maintained. Additionally retraining must occur whenever:

  • Operating procedures or safety rules change
  • Personnel have spent a significant amount of time away from their normal duties
  • Individuals have demonstrated a substandard performance in safety procedures

Next Steps

If you need more information about controlling the risks associated with handling and storing gas cylinders at your worksite, why not download our free eBook Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. We unpack the requirements of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders and introduce the risk management process in clear, easy-to-read text. Download and read it today 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 Adviser. He loves helping businesses 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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