Manufacturing News

Important gas cylinder handling tips

CARE and special precautions need to be taken when handling all gas cylinders.

This is due to four factors: they are round which in some cases makes them difficult to secure and restrain, they are heavier than they look, they can be tall and, they are used in many different and varied locations – domestic, retail and industrial.

If leaks or contamination occur, then the risk of serious injury to people and damage to property will vary depending on the category of gas used.

The main hazard classifications for gases are toxic, flammable and corrosive.

The key areas of concern are:

1. The cylinder valves fitted.

2. Cylinder leak checks.

3. Cylinder handling.

4. Cylinder transportation and storage.

In the interests of the safety of users of gas cylinders and their associated personnel, BOC has documented a number of simple practices to help keep the workplace safer.

Cyclinder values

With side outlet valves, always stand to the side of the cylinder ensuring that no one is in line with the back side opposite the outlet of the cylinder valve.

The purpose of this procedure is not to place the user in the path of a loose back-plug or burst disc should it suddenly vent.

Never tamper with the cylinder valve. They operate under extremely high pressures and if a component is unscrewed it will eject with great force.

If you suspect that a cylinder valve has been damaged – Do Not Use It. Report the issue to your supplier and arrange to have the cylinder returned.

Gas leak detection

Regularly check your gas systems and cylinders for leaks; always use the appropriate detection fluid which makes for good safety and economics.

Do not use ammonia-based leak detection fluids as this will damagethe valve.

It is essential to use the correct fluid leak detection fluid to avoid weakeningof brass cylinder valve bodies or their components and to avoid the risk of failure.

Top cylinder valve

1. When moving cylinders, ensure that the valve is not accidentally opened in transit.

2. Before operating a cylinder valve ensure that the system you are connecting the cylinder into is suitable for the gas and pressure involved.

Also ensure that any accessories such as hoses attached to the cylinder valve, or the system being connected is done so securely.

A hose for example, can potentially flail about dangerously if it’s accidentally pressurised when not restrained at both ends; stand to the side of the cylinder so that neither you nor anyone else is in line with the back of the cylinder valve.

This is in case a back-plug is loose or a bursting disc vents. The correct stance is shown on the diagram.

3. When operating the cylinder valve: open it by hand by turning the valve hand-wheel anti-clockwise.

Use only reasonable force; ensure that no gas is leaking from the cylinder valve connection or the system to which the cylinder is connected.

As mentioned, do not use ammonia based leak detection fluid as this can damage the valve.

Use an approved leak detection fluid.

4. When finished with the cylinder, close the cylinder valve by hand by turning the valve hand-wheel in a clockwise direction. Use only reasonable force.


Treat all cylinders as full whether empty or partly used, and keep them away from heat sources and never store them near, or adjacent to, combustible materials and/or flammable liquids.

Cylinder storage areas must be:

1. Well drained and ventilated and where possible, above ground and not in low-lying areas or sumps.

Oxygen is an oxidising agent which accelerates combustion.

It therefore must be stored at least 3m from fuel gas cylinder or be separated by a fire wall.

2. They must be difficult to access without authorisation.

This is necessary to prevent untrained people from potential hazards and guard against theft.

Adequate room must be allowed for access by authorised delivery vehicles.

3. They must be sign-posted in accordance with dangerous goods legislation.

Cylinders should be clearly labelled as intended with toxic and corrosive gases stored.

Cylinders should be stored upright. This is particularly the case for liquefied flammable cylinders.

If a leak occurs with a liquefied flammable gas then the gas generated will be higher and therefore present an increased risk.

Wherever possible, try to avoid storing cylinders below 0°C.

Some mixtures may separate belowthis temperature and with some liquefied gases the cylinder gas pressure will be greatly reduced. This will result in poor gas supply.

Top cylinder safety tips

1. Always read gas label and Material Safety Data Sheet details before using the gas for the first time.

2. Store cylinders upright and use them in well ventilated areas and not in pedestrian or vehicle thoroughfares.

3. Protect cylinders from impact and secure them against falling.

4. Wear safety glasses, shoes and gloves when handling and connecting cylinder valves to other equipment.

5. Always move cylinders securely with an appropriate trolley and, when using a trolley, take care not to turn the cylinder valve hand wheel accidentally. Use the securing strap.

6. Keep cylinders in a cool, well ventilated area, away from heat sources, sources of ignition and combustible materials and especially flammable gases.

7. Store full and empty cylinders separately.

8. Ammonia based leak detection solutions/detergents, as well as oil and grease, must not come near or contact cylinders and their valves.

9. Only use hand force or unmodified cylinder keys when opening or closing cylinder valves.

10. Never repaint or cover/conceal markings or damage to a cylinder. Tag the cylinder valve of damaged cylinders with a robust weatherproof tag stating the date, customer and damage details before returning to the supplier.

Personnel protective equipment (PPE)

Users of gas cylinders need to wear the correct protective clothing – gloves, safety boots and safety glasses, and ensure they are using the correct interconnecting equipment for the selected gas cylinders pressure and its contents. Accessories such as interconnecting leads/hoses must be securely connected to avoid them detaching when pressurised.

Users need to wear PPE to provide protection for:

1. Eyes, should the cylinder valve accidentally be opened during manual handling of the cylinder.

2. Toes, in particular, as well as feet during moving of the cylinder.

3. Fingers and hands, should the cylinder impact on another similar cylinder or object whilst it is being moved.

Handling gas cylinders

The safest way to move cylinders is with the assistance of mechanical aids such as ramps, trolleys, forklifts or scissor lifts. Make sure that cylinders are always well secured by the manual handling device’s cylinder securing strap.

Never try to move large cylinders by embracing them with both arms and then sliding and lifting them.

They typically weigh 60 to 70 kg andif they tilt whilst being handled the riskof back injury would be high.

Take great care not to drop cylinders:

1. During load and unload operations from trucks and docks.

Should a cylinder fall during the process and the cylinder valve be impacted, then damage will result.

In extreme cases the cylinder valve can open or even be sheared completely off.

The risk of injury to the user would then be high.

2. Up or down steps of 250mm or higher. The risk of damage and/or losing balance would be high.

Wet, hot or cold cylinders become more difficult to handle and, can be very slippery.

Reduced grip and slippage increases the risk of losing control of the cylinder and dropping it and the natural instinct is to try and catch or restrain the object from falling.

Training must stress that moving cylinders without the correct mechanical aids must not be done as most impact injuries are caused by trying to catch or restrain a large toppling or falling cylinder.

BOC 1800 653 572.

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