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Study Notes: Gas Cylinders and Safety

The particular PPE requirements and safety procedures to do with the management and handling of gas cylinders are often taken for granted in the laboratory. Implications for the safety of personnel can be serious if such requirements are not followed. Cylinders can contain any of a wide variety of gaseous or liquid chemicals under high pressure.

Gas cylinders can be used for a range of applications in the laboratory, particularly in connection with the operation of instruments such as atomic absorption spectrometers and gas chromatographs. A gas cylinder connected to a gas chromatograph by copper tubing.

The hazardous nature of gas cylinders is as follows:

  • Gas cylinders are vessels under high pressure and have the potential to be propelled if there is a large uncontrolled release of gas (from, for example, damage to the regulator).
  • Any gas escaping into a confined space has the potential to cause sudden asphyxiation by displacing oxygen from the atmosphere.
  • Asphyxiation can happen even with seemingly harmless carbon dioxide and nitrogen – the potential for danger is heightened because gases such as these can’t be smelt or seen and so there is no obvious warning of their presence.
  • Gases can be toxic or flammable and therefore present specific dangers in themselves.
  • Contact of unprotected skin with liquid or even cold gas can result in damage similar to heat burns.

Because of their hazards, all gases are legislated as dangerous goods, in accordance with the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail.

 

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