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Top 9 Safety Tips for Handling Dangerous Gases

Welding is an important practice in industries like construction and manufacturing. However, it comes with various hazards that can impact the health and safety of welders and others nearby. Dangerous compressed gases can explode or leak when handled incorrectly. Gases can be chemical and mechanical hazards and can be flammable, explosive, acidic, corrosive, reactive and poisonous, depending on the environment they’re in and how people handle them.

In this guide, we provide you with all the information you need for handling dangerous gases in the best way possible, from gaining the appropriate training on how to handle, store and secure dangerous gases to attaining leak detection systems and implementing an emergency plan. Learn essential safety tips for dealing with hazardous gases below.

1. Proper Training and Education

One of the most critical safety tips for handling dangerous gases is attaining the correct training for it. This includes completing a laboratory training program, knowing the various hazardous materials and risks of processes, and working according to a hazard control plan. Knowing how to handle dangerous gases is important because all gases have unique properties to consider in terms of handling, storage and use.

Four factors to consider when evaluating properties include:

  • Toxicity: Some gases, such as carbon monoxide, chlorine and ammonia, can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or inhaled. This makes it essential to use the correct personal protective equipment. It’s equally important to create proper ventilation to prevent the accumulation of toxic gases in the work environment.
  • Pressure: Because compressed gases are stored at high pressure, gas cylinders can easily become a hazard when handled incorrectly or damaged. This makes it essential to transport and store cylinders safely and securely.
  • Flammability: Highly flammable gases that catch fire when coming into contact with heat or a spark include propane, hydrogen and acetylene. To prevent explosions and fires, avoid heat and open flames, use spark-resistant tools and have proper ventilation.
  • Reactivity:¬†Reactive gases are gases such as chlorine, oxygen and fluorine that react to other gases or materials to create a hazardous outcome. You can prevent these gases from coming into contact with each other by storing them separately.
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2. Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) plays an essential role in ensuring safety while working with compressed gases. All gases are different, meaning welders may need varying PPE. Some PPE workers need to use when working with or around dangerous gases include:

  • Protective gloves: Specialized gloves protect your hands from exposure to hazardous materials and gases. The type of gloves workers wear largely depends on the product label and safety data sheet. Some gases may cause extreme temperatures, while others are hazardous chemicals.
  • Foot protection: The appropriate footwear will protect workers from exposure to dangerous gases and materials that may harm or burn the skin.
  • Eye protection: Toxic and corrosive gases can cause severe eye damage and irritation, making it imperative to wear the appropriate eye protection, such as a face shield or goggles. 
  • Respiratory protection and ventilation equipment:¬†Respiratory protection can help protect workers from inhaling dangerous gases. Some protection equipment a welder may wear includes a respirator, mask or another device that filters out harmful fumes or lowers the concentration of gases in the air. The type used will depend on the type of gas, amount of gas in the air and ventilation levels in the work environment.
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3. Gas Cylinder Handling

When dealing with cylinders, it’s crucial to understand the best practices for handling them and keeping them organized in the workplace. The correct personnel must stamp and stencil each cylinder to identify the contents. These labels will help distinguish whether the gas is toxic, flammable or corrosive. If the supplier sends an unidentified gas cylinder, you must send it back for them to identify. It’s also best to avoid identifying them by color or the interchangeable label on the cylinder cap.

Further, you should maintain and implement the following practices:

  • Proper cylinder handling: Dragging and dropping gas cylinders can often lead to an explosion, leak or damage to the valve or cylinder cap. Instead, roll and tilt the cylinder using its bottom edges or use a cylinder cart according to the size and weight of the cylinder. To prevent injury or strain, use the correct lifting practices, such as closing the cylinder valve before moving the cylinder and lifting the cylinder while keeping your back straight and knees bent.
  • Storage: Compressed gas cylinders must stay in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and heat. You should also ensure they remain in upright positions and are stored away from emergency exits.
  • Securing: When transporting dangerous gas, use a strap or chain to secure it to the cart. You should also ensure the rack or stand supports the container’s weight and size.

4. Leak Detection and Monitoring

Long exposure to dangerous gases can cause neurological and physical damage or result in fatality. Leak detectors can help reduce the chances of this happening by clearing the welders’ breathing space of hazardous gases.

Gas detectors can sense carbon monoxide and other gases without taste, odor or color in their natural states. An approved leak-detection fluid or non-detergent soap solution can also help detect leaks from a regulator or hose.

You can regularly monitor gas levels during welding processes by installing a fixed gas detection system.

5. Ventilation and Airflow

When exposed to hot surfaces or flames, compressed gases easily explode or cause fires. This possibility makes it essential for those who handle dangerous gases to understand the correct safety measures and store them in cool, dry and well-ventilated spaces. Additionally, workspaces as a whole should be well-ventilated to protect employees.

Another important factor is to establish your emergency contact numbers. A local exhaust ventilation system is most effective for high-intensity welding activities and dispersing highly toxic gases. This system removes contaminated air through devices like filters, hoods, fans and ducts. Natural ventilation systems use fans and blowers for low-intensity welding activities and mainly rely on airflow through vents, doors and windows.

An effective ventilation system is especially important because when airflow goes in the wrong direction, it can create backflow, causing an increased gas density in the workspace. This event can also happen even with an exhaust fan, making it essential to conduct regular maintenance.

Here are some best practices for welders to follow:

  • Position the ventilation system close to the welding station.
  • Wear adequate personal protective equipment.
  • Turn on the system before you begin welding.
  • Avoid blocking the airflow.
  • Keep the system on until the air is clear of gases.
  • Clean and inspect the ventilation system regularly.
  • Document the system’s performance and maintenance.

6. Emergency Preparedness 

It’s important to put an emergency procedure in place to reduce injuries, accidents and fatalities in the workplace. This procedure should involve establishing exactly what constitutes an emergency and what workers should do in the event of an emergency. You can improve emergency preparedness by:

  • Establishing potential hazards: Do a hazard assessment to identify and record the different types of gases, their properties and any risks associated with them. Encourage workers to understand and abide by these assessments.
  • Creating an emergency response plan: Outline the steps workers should take when noticing a gas leak. Steps will include turning off the cylinder valve if possible, evacuating via the route and assembly point you establish, contacting emergency services, and preventing others from entering the hazardous area.
  • Training employees: Train workers to become familiar with the emergency procedures you create. This training will help them understand the signs of a gas leak and know exactly how to respond. It may help to carry out regular drills to ensure everyone knows what to do in a real event.
  • Encouraging the use of PPE: Wearing personal protective equipment is an essential step in preventing accidents and injuries while working with compressed gases.
  • Reviewing and updating the plan regularly: Always ensure your emergency plan is up-to-date and reflects workplace and regulation modifications and any changes to the types of gases used. Another important factor is to establish your emergency contact numbers, which is likely your local emergency services.

Additionally, an individual emergency procedure a worker may follow includes: 

  • Remove the contaminated clothes.
  • Wash with soap and water if the gas made contact with their skin.
  • Flush the exposed area with water or eye wash for 15 minutes if the gas made contact with their eyes.

In the case of gas inhalation, individuals should leave the facility immediately to go outside and call for emergency services. Then, they should document the incident according to procedures.

7. Proper Storage and Handling Procedures

Determining compressed gas compatibility is an essential part of maintaining dangerous gas safety. You can do this by reviewing manufacturer instructions and consulting with a safety professional.

In most cases, you’ll need to store incompatible gases in separate, well-ventilated storage areas with proper labeling and handling instructions attached. Storing gases away from heat sources like direct sunlight, heaters and furnaces is important because heat can make gases expand in the cylinder, increasing the pressure and causing the cylinder to burst.

At the same time, you should separate incompatible gas cylinders because they can react dangerously when you store them together. You can use proper signage by labeling the storage area and cabinet to ensure workers know the potential risks and how to handle these gases properly. Workers can also use the appropriate handling equipment and tools, such as fittings, connectors and the correct handling instructions.

8. Proper Disposal of Gas Containers 

Improper disposal of containers for dangerous gases can easily endanger the environment. Some proper disposal regulations for empty or expired gas containers you should follow include:

  • Replace the cylinder cap and move the cylinder to the storage area.
  • Label the cylinder properly.
  • Return the cylinder to the supplier. If you are unable to return the empty cylinder to the gas vendor, you can contact your local waste management authorities to assist you with disposal.

Handle the cylinder with care since residual pressure can be dangerous. Avoid refilling and mixing gases, as this could cause an explosion.

9. Continuous Monitoring and Review

The most important aspect of maintaining these safety tips for dangerous gases is consistently monitoring gas handling practices, regularly reviewing and updating safety protocols, and encouraging workers to report any safety concerns. Regular safety inspections and equipment checks can also ensure all tools, such as detectors, gas appliances and containment vessels, function properly.

This is especially important because you need working equipment with uncompromised functionalities to keep workers safe during emergencies. Gas monitoring systems should have the following functionalities to improve dangerous gas safety:

  • Toxic gas alarms set to the permissible exposure limit
  • Visible and audible alarms in the gas use location, gas supply area and outside the gas use room
  • Connection to the emergency power source
  • A visible and audible alarm that is distinct from other alarms to indicate a specific meaning and the required action from the correct personnel
  • Enclosure or lock to protect the control switch and power connection for system operation
  • Alarm status and gas concentration identification panel outside the gas room

Improve Dangerous Gas Safety With Meritus Gas Partners  

Hazardous compressed gases require careful attention and compliance with strict safety rules. They require workers to have skilled training to handle gases appropriately, wear personal protective equipment, and take crucial precautions, such as leak detection and gas monitoring systems, to ensure everyone’s safety.

That’s why we recommend a proactive approach to dangerous gas safety to prevent accidents and promote a safe working environment. With an experienced gas supplier like Meritus Gas Partners, you can be sure to receive trusted information about safe gas handling and storage. We also provide qualified representatives to assist you with the supply of compressed gases and customized solutions to improve safety.

If you’re interested in working with one of our partners for your welding needs, we encourage you to contact a local distributor today.

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