Gas cylinder safety guidelines

Compressed and liquefied gases are routinely used in laboratories and other Iowa State operations. The Iowa State University Gas Cylinder Safety Guidelines apply to all Iowa State University employees who use or otherwise handle compressed or liquefied gases or systems that use compressed or liquefied gases. 

These guidelines provide information on the safe use of compressed and liquefied gases and inform employees of potential health and physical hazards associated with gas and cylinder usage.

Required training

Iowa State promotes the safe use of gases by offering training and information on the proper storage, handling, usage, and disposal of gases and gas cylinders.

Only trained and qualified personnel can use compressed and liquefied gases.

Training should include the associated hazards of the materials, necessary safety precautions, personal protective equipment, and emergency response procedures. Appropriate material safety data sheets or other gas supplier product information shall be accessible to compressed gas users. Additional information is available via compressed gas cylinder training. Contact EH&S at (515) 294-5359 or Ames Laboratory ESH&A at (515) 294-2153 for information on the next scheduled class.

Compressed gas leaks

Use the following procedure if leaks are detected on compressed gas cylinders or in gas supply systems.

A minor compressed gas leak is considered a small, slow, controllable gas release that poses a low risk of personal injury or exposure. Perform the following steps for minor compressed gas leaks:

  1. Notify people in the area of the detected leak.
  2. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment matched to the hazard, such as safety goggles, face shields, gloves, aprons, etc.
  3. If the leak is in the gas supply system, close the cylinder valve and tighten the leaking connections.
  4. If the leak is at the cylinder valve stem, attempt to tighten the packing nut. Be careful not to over-tighten it. If the leak cannot be stopped, move the cylinder into a fume hood, under a local exhaust canopy, or to an isolated, well-ventilated area to vent cylinder contents.
  5. If the leak is at other areas on the cylinder (e.g., valve seal, valve threads, pressure safety device, etc.), move the cylinder into a fume hood, under a local exhaust canopy, or to an isolated, well-ventilated area to vent cylinder contents.
  6. If it is necessary to move a leaking cylinder through populated portions of the building, secure a plastic bag, rubber shroud, or similar device over the top of the cylinder to confine leaking gas.  
  7. Keep flammable or oxidizing gases away from combustible materials.
  8. If possible, direct corrosive and toxic gases into an appropriate chemical neutralizer.
  9. Evacuate the immediate area and post warning signs to prevent access by others.
  10. Notify the laboratory supervisor and EH&S of the incident.
  11. Remain outside the immediate area until cylinder contents have been exhausted.
  12. Return the cylinder to the supplier for needed repairs.

A major compressed gas leak is a large, uncontrollable release of a gas that constitutes a serious hazard to laboratory occupants, facilities, or the environment. When major leaks occur, dial 911 to report the incident and initiate the following emergency procedures:

  1. Evacuate the area, secure the entrances, and assist others on the way out.
  2.  Activate building and area fire alarms (or chemical safety alarms if applicable).
  3. Immediately call 911 and report the incident.
  4. Provide emergency response officials with the incident's details upon arrival. The Ames Fire Department will respond to all chemical emergencies at Iowa State University.

Additional information on the safe usage of cylinders and regulators can be found in the Iowa State University Gas Cylinder Safety Guidelines.