Cylinder and Container Safety Overview

Moving Cylinders and Containers

Cylinders and containers must always be moved carefully. Mishandling that results in a damaged valve or ruptured cylinder can expose personnel to the hazards associated with these gases. In addition, most gas cylinders are heavy and bulky. A cylinder striking someone or pinching a finger, toe, or other extremity is a common cause of injury. For these reasons, all cylinder handlers must always wear certain minimum personal protective equipment prescribed by OSHA.

  • Gloves to protect hands against common pinching injuries.
  • Safety glasses to protect eyes against injuries associated with pressure release.
  • Safety shoes with metatarsal supports to protect against foot injuries from falling cylinders.

Before moving the cylinder to the storage area or point of use or before returning the cylinder to the supplier, ensure the following:

  • The outlet valve is fully closed.
  • The outlet valve dust plug or pressure cap is on tight for cylinders equipped with these protection devices (where supplied).
  • The valve protection cap is properly secured in place on cylinders with neck threads (where supplied).
  • Note: Valve caps must always be in place while moving or transporting cylinders or when they are in storage.

While moving full or empty cylinders:

  • Always use carts or hand trucks designed for this purpose.
  • Never drop cylinders or allow them to strike each other violently.
  • Never lift cylinders by the cap or with a lifting magnet.

After moving a cylinder to its point of use, secure the cylinder in place. Use cylinder stands, clamps, or other securing devices recommended by your supplier.

Storing Cylinders and Containers

Storage of compressed gas cylinders and cryogenic liquid cylinders is governed by codes of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Local codes may also apply. Know and obey codes governing storage at your location.

Safe Practices

In general, store cylinders so they can’t be easily toppled over. Remember, danger exists not only from accidental release of gas by cylinders damaged in a fall but also from their striking someone and causing injury. Store cylinders upright in compact groups, interlocking them so that each cylinder physically contacts those around it. Do not stand cylinders loosely or in a haphazard manner. A single cylinder that topples over can create a domino effect causing other cylinders to fall. Single cylinders should be secured in place or on a cylinder cart so they can’t be easily knocked over. Keep stored cylinders out of high traffic areas. Do not store them near the edges of platforms. Avoid storage in areas where there are activities that could damage or contaminate the cylinders. Electric arc welding can destroy the integrity of cylinder metal if a welder carelessly strikes an arc on a cylinder. Overhead hoists can drip oil or grease on cylinders, contaminating them. Never store cylinders with flammable materials.

Opening and Closing Valves

Observing a few simple rules when opening and closing valves can prevent damage to valves and equipment and add years of useful service life to the valves. The proper way to open any cylinder valve is to first crack the valve, then open it slowly by turning the handle or stem counterclockwise (see Figure 1). This allows equipment to gradually adjust to full pressure. Stop turning as soon as there is any resistance. Turning the valve handle or stem too far in the open position can jam the stem causing damage and leaks and preventing later closure. Likewise, overtightening when closing a valve can damage or permanently distort the seat and result in leakage.

Receiving Cylinders

External Inspection

Personnel responsible for receiving cylinders should perform an external inspection on all packages before moving them to the point of use or to the storage area. Basic guidelines for performing this inspection are as follows:

  • Read the cylinder labels to be sure that the gas is what you ordered and that you understand the hazards associated with the product. Remember, the label is the only means of identifying the product in the cylinder. Never identify the product by the color of the cylinder. A secondary check of contents may be made by using the CGA connection on the valve (see Table 1).
  • Check the TC/DOT cylinder markings to be sure you understand the pressures contained in the cylinders.
  • Thoroughly inspect the cylinders for any obvious damage. The cylinder surface should be clean and free from defects such as cuts, gouges, burns and obvious dents. Such damage could weaken the cylinder metal, creating a danger of failure, or it could make the cylinder unstable and more likely to tip over. Make sure the cylinder stands steady on its base and does not wobble.
  • Cylinders with neck threads should have a cap in place over the valve. Remove the cap by hand. Never use a screwdriver, crowbar, or other leverage device to remove the cap. Never oil or lubricate a tight fitting cap. You could accidentally open the valve or damage it.
  • Check the cylinder valve to be sure it is not bent or damaged. A damaged valve could leak or fail, or it might not make a tight connection when the cylinder is placed into use. Make sure the valve is free from dirt and oil, which could contaminate the gas. Dirt particles propelled in a high velocity gas stream could cause a spark, igniting a flammable gas. Oil and grease can react with oxygen and other oxidizers, causing an explosion.
  • If any cylinder is received with missing or unreadable labels and markings; visible damage; an unstable base; a missing cap; or a bent, damaged, or dirty valve, do not use the cylinder. Contact your supplier and ask for instructions.

Testing for Leaks

After completing the external inspection, proceed as follows:

  • Test the cylinder valve for leaks using the leak test method approved by your employer. If you detect leakage, follow the employer’s procedures for handling leaking cylinders.
  • Note: It is normal for cryogenic liquid cylinders to vent through their relief valves to relieve excess pressure build up due to heat leak. This venting is not a leak.
  • If no leak is detected, secure the cylinder valve cap in place before moving the cylinder to the point of use or to the storage area.

Typical Closing Torques

Packed Stem Valve30 to 40 ft-lb
Diaphragm Stem Valve85 to 96 ft-lb
Pressure Seal Valve60 to 85 ft-lb
Pin-Indexed Valve20 to 25 ft-lb

Table 1 - Product Identification by CGA Cylinder Connection

ProductCGA Cylinder Connection    ProductCGA Cylinder Connection
Acetylene (approximately 10 ft3)200 Linde's FG-2510
Acetylene (between 35 and 75 ft3)520 Helium (less than 3,000 psig)580
Acetylene (over 50 ft3)510 Helium (greater than 3,0000 psig)680
Air, Breathing Grade346 Hydrogen350
Air, Industrial Grade590 Nitrogen (less than 3,000 psig)580
Argon (less than 3,000 psig)580 Nitrogen (greater than 3,000 psig)680
Argon (greater than 3,000 psig)680 Nitrogen, Cryogenic Liquid295
Argon, Cryogenic Liquid295 Oxygen (less than 3,000 psig)540
Carbon Dioxide320 Oxygen (greater than 3,000 psig)701
Carbon Dioxide, Refrigerated Liquid622 Oxygen, Cryogenic Liquid440
Propane510 Propylene510
get started buying gases online