Some gases are highly flammable or combustible. Others are harmful if inhaled or exposed to your skin or eyes. If one thing is certain, it’s that the correct storage of compressed gas cylinders decreases the risk of accidents, damage to property and environmental hazards. Additionally, proper storage methods help maintain the gases’ integrity and ensure their intended use.
While safety is a major concern, adequate gas cylinder storage also prevents contamination. Manufacturing, construction and maintenance industries often use industrial gases in various processes, which means the quality of the gas is critical for optimal performance. Our industrial gas storage guide will show you how to store gas, the ideal storage conditions and how to prolong its life span.
How Do Storage Environments Affect Gases?
When considering the safe storage of gas cylinders in workplaces, consider the ideal storage conditions, as the environment will have an effect on gases, especially when storing specific types.
Impacts of Different Storage Environment Factors
The wrong temperature, humidity and space considerations can alter the quality of stored gases and increase health and safety risks. Gas storage guidelines recommend specific locations for these reasons. Here is how storage factors affect the integrity and hazard of industrial gases:
Temperature: Gas expands at higher temperatures, increasing the pressure in the cylinder. External heat or fire can cause compressed gasses to explode or create another fire source, especially when pressure relief valves release a flammable gas.
Humidity: When water vapor has no way to escape, cylinders can be exposed to dampness, causing valve protection caps to rust or stick. Also, if moisture finds its way into cylinders with open valves, it will result in internal contamination.
Space: If gases are stored indoors or in confined spaces with limited or no ventilation, leaked gases can accumulate. Some gases are denser than air and can cause toxic exposures, asphyxiation and even explosion with ignition sources.
Ideal Conditions for Compressed Gas Cylinders
Gas cylinders need to be stored in well-ventilated, cool and dry areas, preferably far away from possible ignition sources and combustible materials. This will decrease your risk of accumulating gas in case of a leak. Make sure the area is specifically designed for safe gas storage with appropriate fire-rated walls and ventilation.
The storage area’s temperature should be below 100 degrees Fahrenheit — be sure to ask your supplier about the lowest temperatures you can safely store the cylinders.
Keep cylinders as dry as possible.
The storage area should have enough space so cylinders can be grouped together by hazard class and full cylinders can be stored separately from empty cylinders.
Safety Measures for Storing Industrial Gases in Manufacturing Facilities
Every industry uses different types of industrial gases for various purposes, but the types of risks remain the same. Follow these standard procedures to store gas cylinders safely in your facility.
Divide full and empty containers: Store empty cylinders the same way you would full and functional cylinders, but keep them separate to avoid confusion.
Categorize gas containers: Divide and store similar gases together, such as flammable, oxidizers and toxic gases.
Keep cylinders away from heat sources: Keep gas containers far away from ignition sources, naked flames, combustible materials and electrical circuits.
Essential Safety Tips and Equipment
If you are someone who works with or handles industrial gas in some form, it is essential to use proper safety equipment. Here are a few essentials to be aware of:
Handle one cylinder at a time: Keep cylinders vertical as much as possible and avoid lifting them by the protective cap or guard.
Wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE): Use PPE like goggles, gloves, protective clothing and safety boots when handling industrial gas cylinders.
Use equipment designed for moving: Move gas cylinders or containers with a hand truck or cart.
Use a crane: If you need to use a crane, place the cylinders on a special platform with proper nets to prevent them from falling.
Secure stored gases: Use chains or straps to secure stored gases to a fixed surface or use a cylinder stand to prevent them from falling or moving.
Necessary Precautions and Safety Checks
If you are ever in doubt, review the gas safety data sheet (SDS) or contact your gas supplier. These are the common necessary precautions to adapt around industrial gas storage.
Only accept labeled cylinders: Suppliers should provide gas in cylinders and containers with proper identifiable and precautionary labels.
Connect equipment before opening valves: Use the correct valve outlet connection and open the valve slowly facing away from you.
Let trained personnel perform transfilling: Transfilling cylinders can introduce contaminants into the container or cause overpressurization, creating potential safety hazards.
Call the experts: If you find any gas container issues, damages or leaks, immediately notify your gas supplier, as these pose safety hazards. Do not attempt to move these containers until given the go-ahead.
Industrial Gas Storage Compliance Considerations
The role of regulatory compliance is to prioritize the health and safety of employees, employers and their surroundings. Following strict guidelines regarding using, moving and storing gas containers helps mitigate the risks associated with industrial gases.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Compressed Gas Association, the National Fire Protection Association and the International Code Council are a few regulatory organizations to take note of in the industrial gas industry, with each of them having their own set of regulations.
Compliance with regulations enables organizations to do the following:
Preserve the environment: Some industrial gases are toxic and can cause harm to both people and the environment.
Keep the public safe: Mitigating risks can keep workers and the general public safe from any hazards and accidents.
Uphold an organization’s brand value: Upholding compliance shows an organization’s commitment to well-being, responsible operations and ethical business practices.
Gain a competitive advantage: People appreciate organizations that adhere to regulatory compliances and work with service providers that commit to the safety of their employees and the environment.
For example, since the hazards associated with industrial gases include fires and explosions, toxic gas exposures, oxygen displacement, and high-pressure systems, OSHA has put these gas storage requirements together:
When storing compressed gas cylinders inside buildings, keep them in a well-protected, well-ventilated and dry location that is at least 20 feet away from combustible materials.
Assign storage places away from elevators, stairs and gangways.
Do not keep gas cylinders in unventilated enclosures like lockers or cupboards.
Place and secure valve protection caps on cylinders.
Secure cylinders and use proper equipment when hoisting or transporting them.
Keep cylinders from dropping or being struck.
Cylinders should be secured in a vertical position when transported by powered vehicles.
Do not lift cylinders by their valve protection caps or use bars to pry them loose.
Use suitable cylinder trucks, chains or steadying devices to prevent cylinders from being knocked over during use.
Close the cylinder valve after use or when empty.
Separate oxygen cylinders from fuel-gas cylinders or combustible materials by at least 20 feet or with a noncombustible barrier.
How to Train Employees for the Safe Storage of Industrial Gases
Following regulations and using the correct equipment form only a small part of safe industrial gas storage. Many factors can contribute to gas-related accidents occurring at a workplace — one of them is poor staff training. Gas containers are often big and bulky, and it is easy for them to slip or to accidentally knock them over. That is why many accidents happen when workers try to move gas cylinders.
It is dangerous for gas cylinders to fall over, as cylinders could get punctured or valves may break off at the neck. This could cause compressed gas to rapidly release, resulting in the cylinder launching into the air or spinning out of control. Potential hazards from this occurrence may include:
Airborne cylinders can cause serious injury to people and damage property.
If the released gas is toxic, people could get injured from exposure.
In the case of flammable gas, any ignition or even static electricity can start a fire.
That is why it is essential for employees who will be working with or handling gas cylinders to receive training and know what to do during emergencies. Effective training programs should cover topics related to:
Hazard awareness: Workers should be familiar with the gas suppliers’ SDSs and the chemical properties of the gases the workplace stores.
Safety regulations: All employees need to know the storing requirements under the law and the safe handling procedures.
Safe handling methods: Both full-time employees and contractors should follow the proper handling procedures and know how to use equipment that moves gas containers correctly.
Site safety rules: People who visit or work on the site need to know the safety rules, including movement restrictions and prohibited activities.
Emergency response: Workers should be trained on evacuation and first aid measures and be able to locate first aid equipment and safety showers during emergencies.
PPE: Employees should know which PPE to use, how to use them and how to take care of or dispose of them properly after use.
Maximizing the Life Span of Industrial Gases Through Proper Storage
Another benefit of following regulations is that proper storage conditions can prolong the quality and usefulness of industrial gases. Facilities can implement strategies to extend the life span of the gases they use on-site, taking into account factors like environmental conditions, space constraints and costs associated with storing and disposing of old cylinders.
However, keep in mind that cylinders often degrade after two to three years when stored outdoors. Storing gas cylinders over the long term can increase the risks linked to moving gas containers. In comparison, cylinders containing corrosive gases degrade more quickly and can create regulator and valve problems. These cylinders should not be stored for longer than six months.
Here are tips for maintaining optimal storage conditions to maximize the life span of the industrial gases stored in your facility:
Detect leaks promptly: Inspecting and maintaining gas delivery systems and equipment regularly can help prevent leaks. You can reduce gas wastage by conducting regular visual checks and installing leak detection systems so your supplier can repair the cylinders sooner rather than later.
Maintain storage area: Ensure gas containers are stored in a cool and dry space with proper ventilation, where they will be protected from physical damage and exposure to moisture and contaminants.
Manage gas cylinder inventory: Implement a tracking and inventory management system to keep track of gas cylinders, monitor their usage and place new orders in a timely manner. This approach helps avoid unnecessary downtime and prevents losing cylinders due to expiration.
Train and educate employees: Teaching employees the importance of gas conservation can help create a culture of responsibility and awareness, contributing to the extension of industrial gas life spans.
Collaborate with gas suppliers: Gas suppliers can provide insights, recommendations and technological support to optimize gas usage and extend their life span with customized solutions.
Addressing Common Challenges in Storing and Handling Industrial Gases
Storing and handling industrial gases can present various concerns. Here are some common challenges and proactive measures to mitigate them:
Safety hazards: Industrial gases are often flammable, reactive or toxic and some have asphyxiating properties. These hazards can be minimized with proper staff training, appropriate safety equipment such as PPE for moving and handling gas containers, and regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement mitigation measures.
Storage requirements: Different industrial gases have specific storage requirements to maintain stability and integrity. Ensure storage facilities and equipment align with guidelines from the relevant organizations. Maintain optimal storage conditions and mark containers according to regulatory requirements.
Gas leaks: Gas leaks lead to safety hazards, wastage and product loss. Conduct routine inspections of gas cylinders, valves and connectors to identify and repair leaks or damages. Encourage a culture of safety and responsibility by educating employees to be vigilant and report any irregularities.
Inventory management: Poor inventory management can lead to inadequate stock or expired gas cylinders. One proactive measure is to implement a first-in, first-out approach to reduce expired products. Track and monitor inventory and remove expired gas from storage.
Reach out to Meritus Gas Partners for Industrial Gas Storage Guidance
With decades of experience in the industrial gas industry, we at Meritus Gas Partners have built a national group of safe and reliable gas distributors. We have the knowledge and network to provide you with the highest-quality gas equipment as well as PPE and safety equipment that follow the guidelines of safety organizations.
If you require specialty gas equipment, repairs or guidance and assistance with your industrial gas storage needs, contact Meritus Gas Partners today, and one of our sales representatives will get back to you.