Offices or facilities that contain compressed gases require a high standard of care, along with a high standard of training to ensure employee compliance with safety rules.
Although specific precautions for using compressed gases safely vary depending on the gas, there are a number of essential rules that apply to all compressed gases: (1) use cylinders only in well-ventilated areas; (2) keep them away from heat and ignition sources; (3) make sure they are secured upright when in use; (4) open valves slowly, making sure they have pointed away from you and co-workers; (5) don't try to force valves that won't open; (6) don't tamper with safety devices; (7) make sure that equipment is compatible with the cylinder pressure and contents; (8) check all connections before use and periodically during use to make sure they are not leaking; (9) keep valves closed when cylinders are not in use; and (10) when the cylinder is empty, close the valve, disassemble equipment properly, replace the valve protection cap, mark the cylinder "empty" or "MT" and store it separately from full cylinders.
OSHA is extremely specific about compressed gas storage requirements. While there is some variation depending on the gas, all must be stored in the following manner: (1) in a dry, well-ventilated area; (2) at least 20 feet from combustible materials, heat sources, or electrical wiring; (3) away from stairs and elevators; (4) in locations where they are unlikely to be knocked or hit; (5) secured uprightly by a chain or cable; (6) at least 20 feet from oxygen cylinders; (7) with valves closed and valve protection caps screwed down, and (8) with oldest cylinders placed so they will be used first.
The Right Moves
The potential for accidents increases when compressed gas cylinders are moved. When they must be moved, employees should: (1) move cylinders secured upright to a hand truck or other appropriate device; (2) keep valve protection caps on; (3) don't try to carry cylinders by hand, don't roll them, and don't drag them; (4) make sure not to bump, hit or drop the cylinder; (5) keep them away from sparks, heat, fire, and electrical circuits while moving them; and (6) avoid handling cylinders with oily or greasy hands (oil or grease could react with the gas and start a fire, or slippery hands could lose their grip and result in a cylinder hitting the ground or other object).