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An Introduction to Compressed Gas Cylinders

Compressed gas cylinders hold an enormous amount of pressure and many times hold flammable materials. Their proper use is an imperative part of workplace safety training.

Compressed gas cylinders exist to "squeeze down" the space needed to store gases. This allows them to be stored more efficiently. However, it creates a great deal of pressure, which can become dangerous. Even a small gas leak can be very hazardous. The high pressure in the cylinder pushes the gas great distances when a leak begins. If the gas is flammable, an explosion can occur.

Many consumers forget that these cylinders include home use items such as propane and butane tanks used for home barbecue grills. The same safety measures need to be in place. The small home use tanks are just as dangerous as the large commercial use tanks.

Because of these hazards, correct compressed gas cylinder storage is very important. Use cool, dry, well-ventilated spaces. Make certain to secure cylinders upright. Strap all of the cylinders into place to prevent tipping. Keep the safety caps on and maintain them in good condition until connections are made.

After a cylinder is properly secured in place, the safety cap can be removed. Never force it off with a screwdriver or bar. Keep containers out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources. Smoking is never permitted in storage areas. Don't rely on the cylinder paint color alone to be an indicator of the type of gas inside. Never tamper with a cylinder's identifying labels/stencils because this is the only accurate way to identify the gas inside.

Compressed gas cylinders should be handled carefully when transported. Never drag them across the floor or roll them across the floor as this can agitate the gas inside, and could create miniscule holes that cause an eruption. Hand trucks should always be used, 4-wheeled, if possible. Safety caps should always be inspected before, and in place whenever transporting cylinders, no matter how far the distance is. These caps protect valves in case of falls or bumps. To correctly hook up cylinders you must be familiar with associated fittings and mechanisms.

If a cylinder does fall, don't try and catch it. More people are injured trying to catch compressed gas cylinders than in any other type of cylinder related accident. Use service elevators or "dumbwaiters" to move cylinders from floor to floor. Do not ride in the elevator with the cylinders, instead use stairs or have a partner meet them at the arrival area.

Even suspected gas leaks should be treated carefully. Immediately report the situation to your supervisor and the equipment supplier and remove the cylinder for service. Once cylinders are connected and systems assembled, valves and fittings should be checked for leaks. Cover the surfaces with a diluted soap solution. Bubbles will indicate leaks. Tighten or correct fittings, if possible.

If leaks cannot be fixed, immediately alert all employees and supervisors in the area. Begin the procedures outlined by your company, or instructions given by your supervisor. Material Safety Data Sheets should also be consulted for the gases involved. Know the properties and hazards of the gases you work with. Know how to safely store and transport compressed gas cylinders. Be aware of the ways in which regulatorsPsychology Articles, CGA's and pressure release devices operate. Think ahead and prepare for using compressed gases.

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Charlie Bentson King is a Vice President for Workplace Safety Videos - The world's most comprehensive source of safety video and safety DVD training programs.

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