Compressed Gas Safety Program

Table of Contents

1.0 Purpose

To ensure that compressed gas cylinders are managed in a manner that is safe for AU Facilities Management employees in accordance with the requirements established by Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations and the Compressed Gas Association.

Gas under high pressure can be hazardous if not used properly. The combination of the pressure and the nature of the gas may contribute to create a highly hazardous situation that many people fail to realize. Under certain conditions, otherwise harmless gasses can kill. Inert gasses such as argon, helium, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen can asphyxiate a person.

Asphyxiation occurs rapidly and without warning. All possible precautions should be taken to ensure that an adequate breathing air supply is available. Neither respirators nor gas masks supply oxygen. They only filter or purify the air. If asphyxiation is possible, work will be suspended, or the area will be well ventilated and monitored to assure the availability of air suitable for breathing.

When using compressed gasses inside of a confined space, refer to procedures in the AU Facilities Management Confined Space Program for more information.

Top 5 Things to Remember Regarding Compressed Gasses

  1. Always transport cylinders secured, using a chain or strap, to a cart or other stable means.
  2. Store compressed gasses chained, with caps on, in areas less than 125oF.
  3. Original cylinder identification labels shall not be removed.
  4. Separate oxygen containing cylinders from fuels (acetylene, hydrogen.)
  5. Never use compressed gasses (including air) to blow off work areas or persons.

2.0 Definitions

Asphyxiant gas: A gas, usually inert, that may cause suffocation by displacing the oxygen in the air necessary to sustain life.

Compressed gas: A gas or mixture of gasses having an absolute pressure exceeding 40 psi at 70°F as determined by ASTM D-323-72.

Corrosive gas: A gas that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in, living tissue by chemical action at the point of contact.

Cryogenic fluid: A refrigerated liquefied gas having a boiling point colder 130°F at normal temperature and pressure, or which the DOT considers a non-flammable, nonpoisonous compressed gas.

Flammable gas: A gas that, at ambient temperature and pressure, forms a flammable mixture with air at a concentration of 12 percent or less by volume.

Oxidizer gas: A gas that is nonflammable but can support and vigorously accelerate combustion in the presence of an ignition source and a fuel.

Toxic gas: A gas that has a median lethal concentration (LC50) in air of 2,000 parts per million or less by volume of gas or, a gas which the DOT considers “Gas Poisonous by Inhalation”, or a gas that has an NFPA Health Hazard Rating of 3 (Toxic) or higher.

3.0 Responsibilities

3.1 Employee

Only trained personnel may handle, use, or transport compressed gas cylinders.

The employee responsible for use/installation of the cylinder shall:

  • Check the identity of the gas before use. If the cylinder content is not identified, or if the cylinder is in any way damaged, the supervisor shall be notified to arrange return of the cylinder to the supplier.   
  • Transport the cylinder in a properly secured manner.
  • Properly dispose of the cylinder.

The employee shall not:

  • Modify a cylinder,
  • Tamper with a cylinder,
  • Paint or deface a cylinder (other than marking it Empty or “MT”)
  • Remove or repair any part of the cylinder, including the pressure relief device and the container valve or the valve protection device.

 3.2 Supervisor

The supervisor is responsible for:

  • Maintaining an inventory of all compressed gasses used and stored in their area. 
  • Ensuring their employees receive training on the proper use of the gas cylinders in their work area. 
  • Identifying an employee to inspect cylinders monthly for signs of leakage. 


3.3 AU Facilities Management Safety Manager

The Facilities Management Safety Manager will review this program and cylinder inventory on an annual basis, and provide training upon request.

4.0 Identification

All compressed gasses received, used or stored must be labeled. Each cylinder must be marked by label or tag with the name of its contents. Do not accept cylinders without the appropriate labels. The primary identifier of cylinder contents is the label. Color should not be used to identify contents.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be obtained and maintained near each storage area for all compressed gasses.

Empty cylinders must be marked “EMPTY” or “MT” and stored apart from full cylinders while waiting to be removed.

Rooms, cabinets, or buildings containing compressed gasses must be conspicuously labeled COMPRESSED GAS STORAGE. Cylinder Storage Areas must be prominently posted with the hazard class and the name of the gasses stored.

5.0 Storage

5.1 General Information

Inspect cylinders monthly for evidence of leakage. No smoking shall be allowed in the storage area.

5.1.1 How to Store Cylinders

  • Upright and secured with a chain, strap, or cable to member of the building (i.e. Structural Beam) or to a cylinder cart.  
  • The cap shall remain on the cylinder at all times unless the cylinder is being used and the regulator is in place.
  • No more than 2 four foot cylinders per support/securing system.
  • Oxygen cylinders should be kept at a minimum of 25 feet away from fuel-gas cylinders, such as acetylene and combustible materials, or separated by a non-combustible barrier (such as a wall) at least 5 feet high with a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour. 
  • Segregate empty cylinders from full cylinders. When empty cylinders are to be returned to the vendor, mark them “Empty” or “MT.”

5.1.2 Where to Store Cylinders

Store cylinders in a:

  • Dry,
  • Well-ventilated area
  • Away from flames, sparks, electrical circuits, or any source of heat (including temperatures above 125oF) or ignition.
  • Away from continuous dampness, salt or other corrosive chemicals or fumes. Corrosion may damage cylinders.

Never store a cylinder in a stairwell (or under stairs) or other area used for egress.

6.0 Handling/Use

  • Always use the proper regulator attached to the valve.
  • Use soapy water to detect small leaks. Connections employing flammable or toxic gasses are to be leak tested.
  • Compressed gas cylinders shall only be used for their intended purposes. (Not as weights, door props, etc.)
  • Cylinders or valves should not be repaired, painted or altered.
  • Do not use compressed gasses including compressed air, to blow away dust or dirt.  (Compressed air (e.g. Dust Off®) may be used for cleaning electronic equipment. Never point Dust-Off at a person.)
  • Always close the main cylinder valve tightly when not in use.
  • Cylinders must be placed away from electrical equipment so as to not become energized. 
  • Before using a cylinder, slowly "crack" the valve to clear dust or dirt, being sure the opening is not pointed toward anyone. Do not stand in front of the regulator gauge glass when opening the valve.

7.0 Transporting

  • Always use a cylinder cart to move compressed gas cylinders. Refrain from sliding, dragging, or rolling cylinders on their edge.
  • The safety caps shall be in place and screwed all the way down on the cylinder’s neck ring, fitting securely.
  • Do not lift cylinders by the cap. The cap is for valve protection only.

7.1 Transport by Vehicle

  • Compressed gas cylinders shall not be transported in enclosed and confined compartments, such as a trunk or passenger compartment.  The preferred vehicle is one with adequate ventilation such as a rack on the back of truck.
  • Properly secure the cylinder in an upright position.
  • Be aware of environmental conditions such as high temperatures or sun exposure, which may cause the cylinder temperature to rise, leading to a release of compressed gas, even if the ambient temperature is relatively low; Take the most direct route to the destination with the least amount of intermediate stops. 
  • When the destination is reached, immediately remove the cylinder and transport properly by cart.

8.0 Gas Specific Guidelines

8.1 Acetylene

Special care is needed when working with acetylene because it is highly unstable:

  • Never open the cylinder valve more than one turn. Leave the valve key or wrench on the valve whenever the valve is open so that the valve can be closed quickly in case of fire or accident.
  • Never use acetylene at a pressure above 15 psig. Withdraw rate from gas cylinders shall not exceed manufacturers recommendations.
  • Never allow the temperature of any part of the acetylene system to rise above 130oF.
  • Never store/use an acetylene cylinder on its side. Keep it upright and chained to a cylinder cart, wall, or other safe, stable object so that it cannot be knocked over or otherwise damaged.

8.2 Oxygen

Always refer to oxygen, air, and fuel gasses by their correct names. Oxygen is occasionally incorrectly called “air”. Compressed air and oxygen are two very different gasses.  Pure oxygen is far more dangerous. It is important that the two are not confused or substituted for each other.  High-pressure oxygen supplied to a well-lubricated air tool can cause the lubricant to ignite, damaging the tool and injuring the operator. The reason for this is oil and oxygen can ignite and burn when they come into contact with each other.

Never allow oil or grease to come into contact with oxygen-using equipment, including gloves, torches, regulators, etc.

  • Clean oxygen-using equipment with a clean, dry cloth. If necessary, use soap and water, but rinse the equipment thoroughly and dry it before use. Never use organic solvents on oxygen cylinders or equipment.
  • Use a lubricant specifically formulated for oxygen service if oxygen-using equipment must be lubricated. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Never use oxygen to run air tools. Oxygen and other gasses should be used only for their intended purposes.

Never use oxygen to blow out pipelines or to provide ventilation. A spark that is inconsequential in air can be extremely hazardous in an oxygen-enriched environment.

8.3 Fuel-Gas

A number of fuel gasses are commonly used: MAPP Gas, propane, propylene, propylene-based mixtures, acetylene, natural gas, liquefied petroleum (LP) gasses, and hydrogen. All of these gases are usually under low pressure except for hydrogen which is often under high pressured.. All fuel gasses are potentially hazardous. They will burn and can explode when mixed with air or oxygen. Following are general rules that apply to all fuel gasses:

  • Always call a gas by its proper name. Never only refer to “gas”.
  • Do not use a fuel-gas for any purpose other than that for which it was intended.
  • Follow the correct procedures for assembling and disassembling equipment. Use only regulators and other equipment designed for the gas being used and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never let a fuel-gas cylinder reach a temperature above 125oF.
  • Always keep fuel-gas cylinders upright. Never use them on their sides. Use, move and secure them with the same care used for high-pressure cylinders.
  • Close the cylinder valve of a leaking fuel-gas cylinder, take the cylinder to a safe place outside and away from ignition sources, mark it, and call the supplier or gas distributor.

8.4 Refrigerants

Refrigerants present little danger to people if they remain contained in the cylinder or in the system. The hazard occurs when the refrigerant is released from the container or system, often quickly and unexpectedly.

Refrigerants should be handled in well ventilated (preferably open air) locations.  If released in a confined space or in large volumes in an interior location, asphyxiation may result.

Injuries can be avoided if regular safety checks are performed. Regular checks on containers and systems for holding pressure should help avoid any injuries when handling refrigerants.  Locations that house large volumes of refrigerants have in place monitoring/alarms systems that will activate in the event of a release.  These systems should also be checked as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

9.0 Training

Training on how to handle, use, store compressed gas cylinders is required prior to working with these materials and again if abuse or misuse of compressed gas cylinders is observed.  This training is required at least once or when the requirements change.

This training will consist of: procedures and recommended practices on storage and handling of cylinders, cylinder transport, proper labeling and disposal of cylinders. 

10.0 Emergency Procedures


In the event of a leak or suspected leak of gas, evacuate the building or area by activating the fire alarm by pulling the nearest fire alarm box. Call 911. 

Utility Plants

If the alarms systems at our utility operations plants sound, evacuate the building by activating the fire alarm, call 911 as you exit – or from the exterior of the building.

Material Safety Data Sheets

A material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each gas should be maintained the work area where the gasses are used. This MSDS shall be provided to the onsite AU Public Safety and Security representative in the event of an emergency resulting from the use, storage, or transportation of the material.

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2011
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