Compressed gas has become very commonplace in the utility industry. Flammable gases are used for cutting, burning and welding. Propane is used to heat mastic for piping or to melt lead for splices. Compressed gas fuels are used for fork trucks while refrigerant gases are used by fleet personnel. As a result, most utility workers are exposed to gas cylinders as part of their daily operations.
Much like other technology used on job sites, there are hazards associated with compressed gases. These hazards include oxygen displacement, explosion hazards and toxic effects of some gases, as well as the physical hazards of a ruptured cylinder. The following Tailgate Topic provides guidance on the handling, storage and use of compressed gas cylinders.
Upon Initial Receipt
• Receiving personnel should review all shipping documents and inspect cylinders for leaks or damage.
• Cylinders should also be inspected to ensure that the contents are legibly identified and an appropriate identification label is affixed to the cylinder.
• Ensure that appropriate shipping papers, emergency response information and applicable placards are installed on vehicles as required by DOT.
• Cylinders regulated by DOT must be securely fastened outside the cab of a vehicle while in transit or stored.
• The small (typically 14-oz.) handheld propane cylinders must be stored in a compartment outside the cab. Care must be observed to protect the cylinder from extreme heat, punctures or damage.
• Always remove the nozzle assembly or gauge when not in use and install the protective cap provided with the cylinder.
• Don’t allow the cylinder to roll around the vehicle unrestrained.
• Don’t store the cylinder in direct sunlight for long periods of time or in any heat source above 120 degrees.
• Don’t subject the cylinder to electrical contact.
• Don’t smoke when using fuel cylinders.
General Safety Guidance
• When transporting cylinders, they should be properly secured in cylinder carts or hand trucks.
• When cylinders must be handled by a crane or hoist, a suitable cradle or platform capable of properly securing the cylinders must be used instead of a sling.
• Always protect cylinders and their valve assemblies from impact.
• Ensure that oxidizing gases (oxygen, nitrous oxide, etc.) don’t come in contact with oil, grease, oily gloves and similar items. This can cause a reaction resulting in fire and explosion.
• Flammable and oxidizing gas cylinders must be protected from sparks and open flame. Oxygen will intensify a fire. Oxidizing gases include compressed air and oxygen.
• Don’t open or crack the valve of flammable or oxidizing gas cylinders to clear the gas passage/connection or test for cylinder fullness. This may increase the hazard of fire and explosion.
• Defective cylinders must clearly be marked that they are defective, noting the problem with the cylinder or valve.
• Defective cylinders should be returned to the vendor/supplier.
• Never take a compressed gas cylinder into a confined or enclosed space. A leaking cylinder in this environment may displace oxygen or create a hazardous atmosphere. Always set the cylinder outside the space and run the hose or tubing into the space.
• Don’t let water accumulate in the recessed tops of acetylene cylinders.
• Before you remove a regulator from a cylinder, close the cylinder valve and release the gas from the regulator. Regulators should be removed if the cylinder or cylinders will not be used for an extended period of time, generally 24 hours or longer.
• Slowly open cylinder valves. Stand to one side of the pressure regulator gauge when you open the valve.
• Don’t use compressed gas to blow dirt from clothing or equipment.
• Ensure cylinders are securely fastened in a cart or secured from tipping during use.
• Don’t secure cylinders to scaffolding.
• Compressed gas cylinders that are in use are to be in an upright position.
• Never exceed 15 psi on acetylene cylinders.
By following these simple guidelines, you can assure your safety and the safety of your crew!
About the Author: John Boyle is Corporate Director of Quality, Safety and Environment for Acciona Energy North America, a sustainable energy company that develops and operates wind and solar power facilities. Boyle has more than 26 years of experience in nuclear generation and electric and gas distribution.video
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