The Sleeping Giant – Compressed Gas in the Workplace
Compressed gas cylinders in the wrong hands can be killers. They have the potential to burn, explode, or release toxic vapors. Don’t wait for an accident to wake the sleeping giant in your workplace. Train employees now about compressed gas safety.
Compressed gas cylinders may look perfectly safe to your workers, the gas all contained in a heavy metal casing. What could go wrong? The answer is “Plenty!”, and any employees who work with or around compressed gas cylinders need to know that.
Gases contained within compressed gas cylinders can be toxic, flammable, oxidizing, corrosive, inert, or some combination thereof. Because the chemical is in gaseous form and pressurized, it can quickly contaminate a large area in the event of a leak in the cylinder, the regulator, or any part of the system after the regulator; therefore, familiarity with the chemical hazards of the gas is necessary.
The gas can also be injected into the body through the skin if the gas is blown against the skin with sufficient pressure. In addition to the chemical hazards, there are hazards from the pressure of the gas and the physical weight of the cylinder. A gas cylinder falling over can break chemical containers and crush feet. The cylinder can itself become a rocket if the cylinder valve is broken off. Appropriate care in the handling and storage of compressed gas cylinders is essential.
Here’s a warning your employees need to hear about the destructive force of an exploding compressed gas
The Sleeping Giant
I am a compressed gas cylinder.
I weigh in at 175 pounds when filled. I am pressurized at 2,200 pounds per square inch. I stand 57 inches off the deck, am 9 inches in diameter, and am enclosed in a shell about one-quarter inch thick. I wear a cap when not in use. I wear valves, gauges, and hoses when at work. I wear many colors and bands to tell what tasks I perform. These also let you know how you can work safely with me.
I transform miscellaneous stacks of material into glistening ships when used properly. But I can transform glistening ships into miscellaneous stacks of material when allowed to unleash my fury. I am ruthless and deadly in the hands of the careless or uninformed.
I am too frequently left standing alone on my small base–my cap removed and lost by an unthinking worker. That means I am ready to be toppled over–where my unprotected valve can be snapped off and all my power released through an opening only slightly larger than a lead pencil.
I am proud of that power and of my capabilities. Here are a few: I have been known to jet away faster than any dragster. I smash my way through brick walls with the greatest of ease. I fly through the air and reach distances of a half mile or more. I spin, ricochet, crash, and slash through anything in my path. I scoff at the puny efforts of human flesh, bone, and muscle to alter my erratic course. I can, under certain conditions, rupture or explode. You can read of these exploits in the newspaper.
You can be master only under my terms. Full or empty, see to it that my cap is on straight and snug. Never–I repeat, never–leave me standing alone. Keep me in a secure rack or tie me so I cannot fall.
Treat me with respect. I am a sleeping giant.
OSHA and Compressed Gas Training
OSHA requires compressed gas cylinders to be manufactured to meet strict safety standards and to come equipped with a variety of safety features. Although the general compressed gas regulations (29 CFR 1910.101-105) do not specify training requirements, the need for training can be inferred from the mandate of the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires you to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards that could cause serious injury or death.
One of the ways you can meet this requirement in terms of compressed gases (which can certainly cause serious injuries or death) is to train employees who store, handle, or use compressed gas cylinders to follow safe work procedures.
In the next article, we’ll take a closer look at safe handling and storage practices.
- Blaze, explosions destroy house (stuff.co.nz)
- Aleppo: Terrorists use gas cylinders to shell civilians, people protest ‘rebels’ abuses (libertyfirewall.com)
- General technical requirements Introduction of the cylinder valve (resilientseatedgatevalve13843.wordpress.com)
- Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety- Online Training Module (ehs.okstate.edu)
- Fire fighters battle gas cylinder blaze (northdevongazette.co.uk)