Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety

Compressed gas cylinders present two types of hazards: the chemical hazard associated with the cylinder contents and the physical hazard from the cylinder being under pressure.

Mishandled cylinders may rupture violently, release their hazardous contents or become dangerous projectiles. For example, an industrial explosion that killed three people and injured 30 others involved a single oxygen bottle. The top of the bottle was found high in one structure and the bottom buried deep in the ground. The center portion disintegrated in the form of shrapnel, blowing off arms and legs and decapitating one of the victims.

The following tips were designed to be used as a refresher safety training brief about the hazards of improperly using or handling compressed gas cylinders.

  • Read the cylinder label to identify the contents. The color of the cylinder is not always an identifying factor.
  • Read the MSDS and know the safety and first-aid requirements.
  • Identify the hazards associated with the contents, and take the precautions listed on the label/MSDS.
  • Report unlabeled cylinders to a supervisor so that the supplier can be contacted to provide the correct information or pick up the cylinder.
  • Never expose a cylinder to spark-producing electrical tools, cigarettes or open flames.
  • Cylinders must be secured at all times to prevent falling over (chain, plastic-coated wire cable, commercial cylinder strap).
  • Never attempt to make repairs to cylinders or valves.
  • Do not use cylinders as rollers.
  • Do not drop cylinders or allow them to bump violently against each other.
  • Do not permit cylinders to become part of an electrical circuit.
  • Never accept cylinders if they have an expired hydrostatic pressure test date.
  • Do not use grease or oil on oxygen cylinders. Do not use greasy or oily gloves on them, either.
  • Do not use cylinders that are dented, cracked or have other visible damage.
  • Always move cylinders with a suitable hand truck.
  • Always store cylinders in an upright, secured position and in an adequately ventilated area.
  • Cylinder caps should be secured, straight and hand tight, whether the cylinder is full or empty.
  • Never store a cylinder near an actual or potential source of heat.
  • Never store a cylinder where it will be exposed to weather extremes.
  • Never store cylinders where heavy objects could fall on them.
  • Never store acetylene or flammable gas cylinders on their sides (upright only).
  • Do not store oxygen cylinders within 20 feet of fuel gas cylinders or highly combustible materials.
  • Do not store cylinders containing flammable gases such as hydrogen or acetylene in close proximity to open flames or other ignition sources.

Empty cylinders should be:

  • labeled empty
  • stored with valve closed and cylinder cap secured
  • stored separately from full cylinders
  • returned with all original accessories