There are strict requirements in Australia for safely handling gas cylinders. AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders outlines a number of minimum requirements to reduce the risk of injuries, deaths and workplace accidents.
To fully comply with the Standard your workplace may need mechanical lifting devices and gas bottle trolleys, safety cages with individual cylinder restraints, and PPE like insulated gloves, safety boots, eye guards and breathing apparatus. All of this Dangerous Goods safety equipment is only as effective as the way you train staff to use it.
This blog is all about training staff to handle gas cylinders correctly and outlines some training methods as well as the content needed to meet the training requirements of the Standard.
Safety training usually begins with induction training where personnel learn the safety rules of the site and are introduced to the safety risks and hazards they are likely to encounter while working there. Preliminary inductions are often delivered online before a worker or contractor starts their initial duties and a more comprehensive induction delivered when they arrive onsite.
Induction training would include:
- The types of gases used on site, cylinder sizes and where they are located
- The chemical properties of the gases and how the worker or contractor could be harmed
- The applicable safety regulations and the responsibilities of the worker/contactor
- An introduction to safe handling procedures
- Location of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) first aid and safety equipment
- How to respond to an emergency
Safety inductions are not considered a complete training program in themselves, and should be followed up with comprehensive one-on-one training that includes job skills and work methods.
Job Skills Training
After their safety induction, new staff and contractors should be familiar with the site layout and the gas cylinders they will be handling. Now is the time to give them specific training to handle the cylinders correctly. Depending on the worksite, this training might include:
- Receiving cylinders from transport companies (unloading with forklifts (or other mechanical lifting devices), checking labels and visually inspecting cylinders, safely transferring cylinders to the store, ensuring cylinders are upright and individually restrained, correctly segregating cylinders into hazard classes).
- Transferring cylinders from stores to work areas (using gas bottle trolleys, preliminary safety checks valves closed, caps on, no leaks)
- Securing cylinders while in use (keeping cylinders restrained on a trolley)
- Using Personal Protective Equipment (what type of PPE to use, location of PPE, how to fit and use it correctly, cleaning and maintaining PPE)
- Hazard training (how fires are started, ignition sources, asphyxiation hazards, toxic and corrosive gases, how oxidisers create fires and explosions, chemical reactions and incompatible substances)
- First aid measures (location of first aid equipment and emergency showers, how to treat yourself, how to treat a co-worker, who to notify)
Effective job skills training involves a combination of auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learning where procedures would be explained as well as demonstrated. The learner then performs the tasks under the supervision of the instructor who can then continue the training until the learner is competent.
TIP: Safety training must consist of more than a set of written procedures handed to an employee for them to sign. Staff must be supervised handling gas cylinders correctly and consistently.
Supervision and Revision
Staff who handle gas cylinders and other Dangerous Goods require adequate supervision to ensure they are correctly following procedures and adhering to safe work methods. When staff aren’t following procedures it puts their lives in danger and jeopardises the safety of the entire worksite. But not following procedures isn’t always because of laziness or insubordination, it can be an indication that:
- Staff don’t fully understand how to handle the gas cylinders correctly
- They aren’t completely aware of the chemical properties and hazards of the gases they are handling, so they don’t take the procedures seriously
- They have damaged or lost their PPE and are substituting something else because they are afraid to report it
- An outside contractor or different work team convinces them to deviate from work standards
- Critical handling and cylinder storage equipment is missing or broken so the staff improvise instead of following procedures
- Staff don’t know what to do when they encounter a situation ‘outside the box’
Very often these incidences of incorrect performance indicate a weakness in the work process that needs to be improved.
IMPORTANT: The standard requires that staff must be retrained whenever they have demonstrated substandard performance in safety procedures.
Emergency Response Training
Emergency response training is usually conducted annually and involves an evacuation drill. When you handle and store gas cylinders onsite you will need to conduct a risk assessment to analyse the types of dangerous events that could occur and then incorporate that into your emergency procedures and response training. This would need to include:
- Fires and Explosions: how onsite gases in cylinders might cause and exacerbate a fire or explosion, what to do, who to call, what equipment to wear, how to evacuate.
- Gas leaks: initial response, PPE to wear, who to notify, evacuation procedures, clean ups, equipment repair.
- Chemical Reactions: PPE to wear, kill switches and shutdown procedures, first aid procedures, using emergency showers, who to notify, evacuation procedures.
TIP: Build gas cylinder safety awareness through regular tool-box talks and workplace safety forums.
If your workplace handles and stores gas cylinders why not download our free eBook Gas Cylinder Storage: Compliance and safety requirements. The eBook outlines the requirements of AS4332-2004 - The storage and handling of gases in cylinders in easy-to-read text, and uses real-world examples and case studies to make it relevant to your own workplace. Download it and read it today by clicking on the image below: