Gas Cylinder Safety - Buying Guide
Transporting Gas Cylinders
The handling of compressed gas cylinders is governed by several pieces of legislation including Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR). MHOR concerns itself with the general handling of heavy items and states that the risk of injury in doing so should be reduced as far as is practicable. This can be done by using appropriate equipment, such as trucks or trolleys. COSHH regulations deal with the control of the gases contained within cylinders to prevent accident or injury to staff and premises or environmental contamination. Working your way through this legislation can be daunting and it’s well worth seeking independent advice, however having the correct apparatus and following some basic safety principles can go a long way towards mitigating risk.
Transportation should only be carried out using a gas cylinder trolley or other handling device that is designed for that purpose. Other manual handling equipment will certainly lighten the load, but runs the risk of not holding the cylinder securely and causing accidental damage. Handling solutions should always be used where long distances are involved. Physically lifting and carrying a cylinder should only be undertaken by trained staff over short distances in locations where a trolley would be inappropriate.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as safety gloves and boots should be worn while handling cylinders to reduce the chance of injury. Depending on the gas and tasks to be carried out other items including overalls and eye protection might also be required.
Ensure cylinders are marked to show what is contained and that the universally recognised Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is used to identify any hazards such as toxicity or flammability. To prevent moving cylinders unnecessarily they should be tagged to show whether they are full, empty or partially used.
Safe Storage of Gas Cylinders
Cylinder storage areas should always be checked to ensure they are safe, secure and suitable for holding potentially dangerous materials. Access to cylinders should be restricted to authorised personnel and warning signs must explain the risks and rules for handling them. Because of the potential for vapours to escape, all storage areas must be well ventilated to prevent dangerous build ups or toxic mixes if several gases are stored together. Flammable gas cylinders as well as those holding other substances should never be stored near heat sources. The safety data sheet provided by your supplier will contain specific details of restrictions regarding the items in your workplace.
If a cylinder should fall over it could become damaged resulting in an immediate leak or an increased risk of one in future. Because of this, all cylinders must be secured when not in use using a bracket or stand that includes a strap, chain or other holding device.
Q: Are there any special provisions that should be made for storing and using flammable substances?
A: As well as ensuring flammable materials are held well away from workers, ignition sources and other hazardous substances, there are several other basic rules that should be adhered to. Wherever practical flammable liquids or gases should be kept outdoors – if this is not possible then internal firewalls may be required. Never dispense or decant flammable substances in areas where other nearby items could represent a fire risk. Also, ensure you are only ever holding and working with the minimum amount needed for reasonable use - flammable items should never be stockpiled. Cylinders should be marked using GHS labeling and hazard diamonds. It is also important to use signage around your site to show that combustibles are being stored and clearly illustrate any emergency evacuation procedures. Make sure all staff are trained in the handling of these items and that they know the correct requirements and procedures for accidents involving all hazard types.
Q: How can I find out more about my specific requirements?
A: The rules concerning handling and storing gas cylinders are abundant and complex. Using tested and approved apparatus is essential for meeting requirements, however we would always advise you to consult your gas supplier or a registered health and safety advisor for specific information based on your circumstances.