Campus Safety Links
Compressed gas cylinders are essential to research throughout the College of Engineering.
These gases vary from flammable (hydrogen) or toxic (ammonia) to inert (nitrogen). Many compressed gas cylinders are stored at extremely high pressures up to 2,500 pounds per square inch gauge. When handled correctly, compressed gas cylinders are safe. The same cylinders can present a severe hazard to everyone in the lab if handled improperly,
Types of Hazards
- Physical Damage: Cylinders are hazardous when exposed to damage from falling over, tipping, heat, electric circuits, motion, vibration, or anything that can cause a weakness or crack in the cylinder wall or shell. Such damage can cause the cylinder to rupture and explode sending sharp metal pieces, like shrapnel, blasting through the area. A sudden release of compressed gases can cause a cylinder to become a missile-like projectile. Cylinders have been known to penetrate concrete-block walls.
- Tipping and Falling: The most common hazard associated with cylinders occurs when cylinders tip or fall over. Since cylinders are heavy and awkward to handle, they require special care and equipment in handling and securing so they do not fall or tip over and cause injury.
- Valve Leakage: Cylinder valves and connections can leak, causing their contents to discharge. When this occurs in a small space, there is a potential for that space to become oxygen deficient. Leaks may also release a toxic or flammable material into the lab. To minimize hazards from leaks, check your connections regularly, use proper ventilation and store cylinders correctly.
Users of Compressed Gas Cylinders must read, understand, and follow the markings on the cylinder, the label(s) on the cylinder, and the Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn.
Training on cylinder management and a review of the CoE Guide to Compressed Gases in Laboratories is strongly recommended for anyone handling compressed gases.
Cylinders are received on the loading docks and lab personnel are responsible for picking up cylinders promptly. Empty cylinders are picked up when the new cylinders are delivered. As most compressed gas vendors charge holding fees, it is important to arrange return of unwanted cylinders promptly.