Compressed gas cylinders are used in many workplaces to store gases that vary from extremely flammable (acetylene) to extremely inert (helium). Many of these cylinders store gases as extremely high pressures that can turn a damaged cylinder in a torpedo capable of going through multiple concrete block walls. Other cylinders store the contents as a liquid (example: acetylene) and have special orientation requirements. If handled properly compressed gas cylinders are safe. If handled improperly, the same cylinders can present a severe hazard to you and your employees.
General Storage Requirements
According to the U.S. Department of Labor General Industry Digest, 1994 (Revised):
Compressed gas cylinders shall be kept away from excessive heat, shall not be stored where they might be damaged or knocked over by passing or falling objects, and shall be stored at least 20 feet (6 meters) away from highly combustible materials.
The actual OSHA standard, 1910.253(b)(2)(ii) says,
Inside of buildings, cylinders shall be stored in a well-protected, well-ventilated, dry location, at least 20 (6.1 m) feet from highly combustible materials such as oil or excelsior. Cylinders should be stored in definitely assigned places away from elevators, stairs, or gangways. Assigned storage spaces shall be located where cylinders will not be knocked over or damaged by passing or falling objects, or
subject to tampering by unauthorized persons. Cylinders shall not be kept in unventilated enclosures such as lockers and cupboards.
Most modern cylinders either come with a valve cap or built in valve protection. An example of
valve protection is the collar on propane tanks. Valve caps must be on all cylinders at all times
except when the cylinder is in-use. If the cylinder was not designed to have a valve cap, the cylinder
is not required to be capped. The actual OSHA standard, 1910.253(b)(2)(iv) says,
Valve protection caps, where cylinder is designed to accept a cap, shall always be in place, hand-tight, except when cylinders are in use or connected for use.
Other Sources of Information
The Compress Gas Association and the NFPA produce standards for the safe use and installation of
compressed gas cylinders. The actual OSHA standard, 1910.102(a) says,
(a) "Cylinders." The in-plant transfer, handling, storage, and utilization of acetylene in cylinders shall be in accordance with Compressed Gas Association Pamphlet G-1-1966.
To obtain the Compressed Gas Association pamphlet call your compressed gas supplier. NFPA
standards can be ordered directly from the NFPA.
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Last Updated: 2/21/98