Compressed Gas Storage and Handling

May 2021 Safety Topic

Compressed gases are used for a variety of different tasks around campus. Compressed gases can be used by Facilities personnel, researchers, and medical staff. The convenience of having these gases in portable containers does not come without risk. The primary hazard associated with any compressed gas is the potential energy stored in the containers at a high pressure. Compressed gases can become projectiles if handled improperly. Improper handling of cylinders could result in sprains, strains, falls, bruises, and broken bones.

Like chemicals, some compressed gases also exhibit other hazardous characteristics such as flammability, toxicity (quality of being toxic or poisonous), corrosivity, reactivity (impetus for which a chemical substance undergoes a chemical reaction), cryogenic (gases at very low temperatures) and associated asphyxiation (will cause the body to lose oxygen) hazards. Hazards such as fire, explosion, chemical burns, poisoning, and cold burns could occur if gases accidentally escape from the cylinder due to mishandling.

Common Hazards Associated with Compressed Gases are:

  • All gas cylinders must be chained to a fixed object to prevent inadvertent tipping and should be kept in ventilated enclosures.
  • Compressed gas containers should never be used as door stops.
  • Compressed gases must be moved using a proper hand truck with a chain.
  • If you suspect a leak coming from a compressed gas (may make a hissing sound; Oxygen sensor may alarm) notify Public Safety at 212.305.7979. Compressed gases can displace the oxygen in an environment and cause asphyxiation.
  • When working with compressed gases use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as sturdy work gloves to avoid finger injuries and contact stress, as well as safety boots.
  • Always make sure all valves are closed tightly after use to avoid unintentional release.

If you notice any dangerous condition associated with compressed gases as you move about the campus, or would like more information about compressed gases, notify your supervisor or a member of the Campus Life Safety and Regulatory Compliance team.