Cylinder Handling - Airgas.com

Gases
Cylinder Handling
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Safe Cylinder Handling
Things you should know before using or transporting compressed gas cylinders. Transporting compressed gas cylinders is hazardous, and you should become familiar with these hazards before deciding to transport them.

  • SAFETY INFORMATION is contained in publications called Material Safety Data Sheets, or "MSDS". These are available for each gas product that you purchase. Please take advantage of this free service and be informed of the dangers associated with gas products.
  • Documents called "Hazardous Material Manifests" or "Shipping Papers" are required for each shipment of hazardous materials. In many cases, the invoice you receive for the cylinder transaction is designed to comply with the requirements of this law. In some cases, you will be given a separate document to fulfill this requirement. Even cylinders that are empty by your definition are still considered hazardous materials by the DOT, because of the small amount of residual gas they contain.
  • The DOT sets exact limits on the weight of hazardous materials that may be transported before vehicle placarding is required. (Remember, when you are transporting cylinders, you are transporting hazardous materials.) Vehicle placarding is required when the total weight (both cylinders and their gas products) reach a combined weight of 1000 pounds or more. Some states also require hazardous material transportation permits when placarding is required. Consult your state's highway patrol office for specific requirements.
  • Never remove or alter cylinder labeling. Labels contain critical information on the safe handling of gas products. The DOT requires that proper labeling must be in place before the products can be offered for transportation.
  • Most compressed gas cylinders are very heavy, and some can weigh in excess of 200 pounds or more. Gases such as propane, carbon dioxide, and several others are in the cylinder in a liquid form, which makes them very heavy. Acetylene cylinders have a heavy filler material in them. This is why some cylinders are much heavier than they look.
  • Transporting cylinders in cars, vans, or in any enclosed vehicle is extremely dangerous, and should be avoided. Never transport flammable gases in the trunk or passenger compartment of a vehicle. Many persons disregard this warning every year, and there are many vehicle explosions as a result. We urge you to have the cylinders delivered in an appropriate vehicle.
  • Always install the protective cap on the cylinders when they are being transported, or any time they are not in use. Many cylinders contain pressures that are in excess of 2000 pounds per square inch. A broken valve is all it takes for the cylinder to become an unguided missile. If the cylinders were not designed to accept a protective cap over the valve, special care must be taken to prevent the valve from damage or opening during transportation.
  • Secure your cylinders. The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations require that all compressed gas cylinders be secured from movement during transportation. Cylinders that can move can open accidentally, or roll off the vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic.
  • DOT Emergency Response guides are included in this booklet. If an emergency occurs during the transportation of compressed gases, you can obtain guidance on how to handle the emergency by calling the CHEMTREC emergency hotline at: 800/424-9300.
  • Leaving cylinders near a source of heat, such as a furnace or water heater, or inside a vehicle is an invitation for disaster. Keep the cylinders in a cool, well ventilated area, away from sources of heat or ignition.
  • Never attempt to adapt fittings from one cylinder or device to another. Fittings or hoses may not be compatible with the gas products, and may fail violently. Gases must never be transferred from one cylinder to another. In some cases, the rate of flow of the gas itself may be enough to cause an explosion.
  • Always return the cylinders for filling when they are down to 25 pounds of pressure. This helps prevent a dangerous gas mixture from forming in the cylinder itself, or the attached equipment. Check valves are an important safety feature, but don't rely on them 100% to prevent a "back-flow" condition. On oxy-fuel systems, when changing regulator equipment to a full cylinder, always open the cylinder valve slowly. Purge the regulator and hoses by allowing a small amount of gas to pass through the system before reigniting the torch. Purging must be done in a well ventilated area where gases cannot accumulate.
  • Tell the personnel that fill your cylinders if you believe there is a possibility that the cylinders may have been contaminated or damaged. They will take special care in checking them for you. Never conceal damage, contamination, or attempted repairs to a cylinder.
  • Contamination of cylinder surfaces with oil, grease, or any type of hydrocarbon material is highly dangerous. Never lubricate any part of the valve, cylinder, or attached equipment. Never allow the cylinders to be stored or transported where contamination may get either in or on the surface of the cylinders. Never handle cylinders with oily gloves or hands.


SAFETY MUST ALWAYS BE YOUR NUMBER ONE CONSIDERATION WHEN USING COMPRESSED GAS CYLINDERS, BOTH FOR THE SAKE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS.

Almost all accidents involving compressed gases are a result of not following established methods for the safe handling and use of these products. Proper methods should be learned before the products are used.

  • Compressed gases, by their nature, are hazardous. They are all capable of creating environments that are either flammable, oxygen enriched, or oxygen deficient.
  • Even gases such as nitrogen, which is present in our atmosphere at a level of almost 80%, can displace the oxygen in a room or enclosure and cause suffocation.
  • Never deliberately breath, or allow others to breath any compressed gas of any type. It is possible to deplete the oxygen in the bloodstream, and cause rapid suffocation and DEATH.


Gases that are meant to be consumed by humans must undergo special production and testing methods, and be administered by trained personnel.

  • Although nitrous oxide is an oxidizer, it cannot support life. In a single four month period, the National Institute of Inhalant Abuse documented the deaths of 10 persons, and the permanent injury of 3 others, all as a result of breathing nitrous oxide.
  • The best way to move cylinders is with a cylinder cart. Never move cylinders by laying them down and rolling them, as this subjects the cylinder to side-wall damage.
  • Always wear proper clothing for the job. Protective clothing, safety shoes, and leather gloves should be worn when cutting or welding, in addition to the required helmet or other protective gear. Any time compressed gases are being handled, safety glasses should be worn.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close at hand. Situate flammable gas cylinders in a location so that if a fire does occur, it may be easily extinguished. In some situations, it may be better to evacuate the area and let the cylinder burn, especially if escaping gas could collect and explode.
  • Never attempt to repair the cylinder, its valve or other attachments. Repairs require special training and equipment, and should only be performed by authorized persons. Never use oil or other lubricants on the cylinder, valve, or attached equipment.
  • The Compressed Gas Association (CGA) offers publications on handling compressed gases, contained in publications such as their "P-1", titled "Safe Handling of Compressed Gases in Containers". Their phone number is 703/412-0900. Your local college, university, or trade school may also offer instruction on the proper handling and use of compressed gases in cylinders.
  • Don't hesitate to ask questions. Your Airgas representative will assist you as much as possible, and if they can't answer all your questions, they will put you in touch with others that can.