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Compressed Gas Cylinders

Mishandling compressed gas cylinders can create serious consequences for welding operators or other nearby personnel. These cylinders can release their hazardous contents or become dangerous projectiles. If the neck of a pressurized cylinder accidentally broke off, the energy released is sufficient to propel the cylinder to over 30 mph in a fraction of a second. The following are safety precautions for the use and storage of compressed gas cylinders.

General Safety

Damaged cylinders, cylinders that are leaking or cylinders with unknown contents should be returned to the manufacturer immediately. Always have the appropriate Safety Data Sheet (SDS) readily available and be familiar with the health, flammability and reactivity hazards for each gas used by your organization.

Cylinder Labeling

Cylinders must be properly labeled, including the gas identity and appropriate hazards (e.g., health, flammability, reactivity). Color-coding of cylinders cannot be used to indicate the contents because the color codes differ among suppliers. With no set industry color standard, only the gas identity and hazard labels should be used to identify the contents.

Cylinder Storage

The Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recommends the following guidelines for cylinder storage: 

  • Keep all cylinders away from corrosive vapors
  • Keep corrosives away from flammables
  • Keep flammables away from oxidizers
  • Cylinders must be kept away from sources of heat
  • Cylinders must be kept away from electrical wiring where the cylinder could become part of the circuit
  • Keep oxygen cylinders a minimum of twenty feet from flammable gas cylinders or combustible materials; if this cannot be done, separation by a noncombustible barrier at least five feet high with a fire rating of at least one-half hour is required
  • Keep valve protection caps in place when the cylinder is not in use
  • Mark empty cylinders EMPTY or MT
  • Keep full cylinders away from empties
  • Keep valves closed on empty cylinders
  • Secure empty and full cylinders to a fixed support using chains or other substantial restraining devicesStore cylinders in an upright position
  • Store cylinders in well-ventilated areas designated and marked only for cylinders

Moving Cylinders

  • Use a cylinder cart and secure cylinders with a chain
  • Don't use the protective valve caps for moving or lifting cylinders 
  • Don't drop a cylinder, permit them to strike each other violently or handle them roughly
  • Wear appropriate foot protection when moving or transporting cylinders

Before cylinders are moved, you must remove regulators, close valves, and put protective valve caps in place (unless cylinders are secured on a special cart). Regulators must also be removed when work is completed and when cylinders are empty.

Avoid Unsafe Behaviors

Never attempt to:

  • Mix gases in a cylinder
  • Carry a cylinder by the valve
  • Discard pressurized cylinders in the normal trash
  • Force improper attachments onto the wrong cylinder
  • Grease or oil the regulator, valve or fittings of an oxygen cylinde
  • Leave a cylinder unsecured
  • Leave an open cylinder unattended
  • Refill a cylinder
  • Roll a cylinder to move it
  • Use a flame to locate gas leaks

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