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Compressed Gas Safety


Research personnel must become familiar with the properties and inherent hazards of the compressed gases used in the laboratory. Compressed gas cylinders contain varying pressures of inert, toxic, flammable, or corrosive gases. Personnel must be cautious when handling or storing compressed gas cylinders. The safety data sheet and product labeling must be reviewed prior to using any compressed gases.

Hazards associated with compressed gases include oxygen displacement, fires, explosions, toxic gas exposures and high pressure. Compressed gas cylinders can become projectiles due to the high pressure if the cylinder or valve were to rupture. The following is a list of commonly used gases at the university and the hazards the gas presents:

  • Inert Gases – Nitrogen, Argon, Helium, Carbon Dioxide – Asphyxiant
  • Hydrogen – Flammable and Asphyxiant
  • Hydrogen Sulfide – Toxic, Corrosive and Flammable
  • Carbon Monoxide – Toxic and Flammable
  • Chlorine – Toxic, Corrosive and Oxidizer
  • Ammonia – Corrosive and Flammable
  • Methane – Flammable and Asphyxiant
  • Oxygen – Oxidizer
  • Fluorine – Toxic and Oxidizer
  • Acetylene – Flammable and Asphyxiant
  • Liquid Nitrogen – Asphyxiant and Extreme Cold
  • Nitrous Oxide – Asphyxiant and Oxidizer
  • Nitric Oxide – Toxic and Oxidizer
  • Propane – Flammable and Asphyxiant

All compressed gases that are classified as toxic or flammable must be stored in ventilated gas cabinets equipped with a leak detection system. Oxidizing gases must be stored 20 feet away from all flammable gases.

Compressed gas cylinders must be transported on a hand truck or cart equipped with a chain. The valve cap must be on during transportation. Research personnel must not roll or drag the cylinders to the desired location.

Compressed gas cylinders empty or full must be secure in the upright position at all times. The valve cap must in place during storage and transportation.

Review the Chemical Hygiene Plan or Laboratory Safety Manual for a detailed discussion on the proper handling of compressed gas cylinders. In addition, EH&S has developed a Chemical Safety Summary (CSS) on hydrogen safety to ensure proper handling and storage.