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Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety

Safe Handling of Compressed Gas Cylinders

Due to the nature of gas cylinders, special storage, use and handling precautions are required.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined regulations regarding compressed gas cylinders (29 CFR 1910.101). Compressed gases are classified based upon their chemical and physical hazards.  Personnel using gases shall have a thorough knowledge of their properties in order to maintain a safe and controlled operation.

Users of compressed gas should become familiar with the proper procedures for operation the cylinders and the properties and inherent hazards of the products they contain.  Valuable information pertaining to each specific gas is contained within its product labeling and safety data sheet.  Take time to read this information and inform others of the importance of understanding and applying the precautions established within the available safety literature.


Compressed gas cylinders shall be handled and used only by properly trained personnel in accordance with applicable regulations and the guidelines contained in this document.  Compressed gas cylinders will not be issued to personnel until they have received the appropriate safety training.  As part of its laboratory safety program, EH&S will provide basic compressed gas cylinder safety training.  Individual departments will be responsible for providing training specific to the gas and cylinder system in use in its areas.

Compressed Gas Cylinder Training

Compressed gas cylinders are delivered directly to the user by the supplier.  The supplier will also replace or remove the cylinders when they are empty or no longer needed.  At the School of Medicine, the Medical Storeroom is responsible for receiving cylinders from suppliers, maintaining the inventory for cylinders and their delivery and removal from clinics and laboratories.  Storeroom personnel are not however, authorized to make connections or disconnections of piping, regulators or other apparatus.  That responsibility lies with laboratory personnel.  They are in charge of the proper placement, connection/disconnection of piping, regulators and leak testing of the system and safe usage in the laboratory or clinic.


Compressed gas cylinders must be secured in an upright position at all times during storage, transport and use.  They should be marked, labeled, stored, handled and used in accordance with applicable Federal, State, and local regulations.  A cylinder's contents and status (full, empty, in service, etc.) must be identified and visible at all times.  Along with the manufacturer's labels these labels/markers must not be defaced or removed.  The prescribed markings on the cylinders shall be made and kept in a legible condition, if these markings/labels become illegible they should be replaced with correct identifiers.  This can be prolonged by visually inspecting the cylinders daily and prior to each use.  Inspections should include corrosion, leaks, cracks, that could happen in the cylinder itself or the piping, regulator, valves and protection caps and stems.  If the cylinder is thought to be defective, it should be removed from service and returned to the supplier for replacement.  Any defective piping, regulators and other apparatus must be tagged as "Out of Order" under repair or replacement.  Users should not modify, tamper with, obstruct , remove, or repair nay part of the cylinder, including but not limited to the pressure relief device and the cylinder valve or the valve protection device.  Cylinders should be stored in a way that the gas stream will not be directed towards any person as this may cause serious injury to the eyes or body.

Cylinder connections that are an ill fit should not be forced.  Threads on regulator connections or other auxiliary equipment should match those on the cylinder valve outlet.  If a valve must be forced, it is a good indication that the wrong valve is being used.  Valves should be kept closed at all times (charged or empty) except when the cylinder is in use.  Valve outlets should be pointed away from personnel when being opened.  During periods of unuse all apparatus (valves, regulators etc.) should remain tightly closed to prevent leaks.  This can be confirmed by the use of compatible leak test solution or an appropriate leak-detection instrument.  A leak test must be conducted every time the cylinder is reconnected such as during cylinder replacement.  A flame must not be used for leak testing.

Regulators, gauges, hoses/pipes and other apparatus provided for use with a particular gas, or group of gases, should not be used on gas cylinders having different chemical properties unless information obtained from the gas manufacturer indicates that it can be done safely. Maintenance of cylinders and their valves or relief devices should be performed only by trained personnel.  This activity is best handled by the original manufacturer and may be required based on the contract.

An emergency response plan should be developed and implemented wherever compressed gas cylinders and products are used, handled or stored.  Ensure no personnel smoke around the storage and areas of use of compressed gas cylinders.

Storage of Compressed Gas Cylinders

All gas compressed gas cylinders in service or in storage at the user locations should be stored to prevent falling, tipping, rolling and should be stored and used valve end up.  Compressed gas cylinders should be supported at all times with an upper and lower set of supports (2 chains or 2 belts).

Acceptable support methods include:

  • Wall mounted or bench mounted gas cylinder brackets
  • Set of chains or belts anchored to the wall or bench
  • Free standing dollies or carts designed for gas cylinders and equipped with safety chains or belts

Cylinders should not be placed where they might become part of an electrical circuit or arc.  Storage temperatures for cylinders should not exceed 125oF.  Never expose compressed gas cylinders to extreme cold or heat.  During times of storage the user should keep valve protection caps on cylinders.  Valve caps and/or plugs on valve outlets should remain on unless cylinder is in use.  All storage areas must be designed to accommodate the various gases required by the user.  Adequate spacing or segregation by partitioning should be provided so cylinders can be grouped according to hazard classification.  Additional consideration should be given to separate storage of full and empty cylinders.  Cylinders when in service should not be stored near readily ignitable substances or be exposed to corrosive chemicals or fumes.  These cylinders should not be stored near elevators, walkways, building egresses, unprotected platform edges, or in locations where heavy moving objects may strike or fall onto of cylinders.   Toxic and poisonous compressed gases should be used in the fume hood or other enclosures vented directly outside.  Appropriate first aid and antidote information and supplies must be provided and clearly marked at room entrances.

Transport of Compressed Gas Cylinders

Users of compressed gas cylinders shall ensure that they are not rolled in the horizontal position or dragged.  A suitable hand truck, forklift truck, or similar material handling device designed for cylinder transport should be used, with the container properly secured to the device.  Caution should be used when handling cylinders to guard against dropping or permitting cylinders to violently strike against each other or other surfaces.  It is necessary to take precautions so that gas cylinders are not dropped or allowed to strike each other or other objects.  Dropping or striking may damage the cylinder valve, which could turn the cylinder into a dangerous torpedo with the potential to destroy property and/or injure personnel.  All personnel who handle cylinders should be trained and instructed to NEVER lift cylinders by using the cylinder cap or magnets.