Compressed Gas Leaks

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

Minor Leaks

A minor compressed gas leak is considered to be a small, slow, controllable release of a gas 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 shield, gloves, aprons, etc.
  3. If the leak is in the gas supply system, close cylinder valve and tighten leaking connections.
  4. If the leak is at the cylinder valve stem, attempt to tighten the packing nut. Be careful not to over tighten.  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 laboratory supervisor and EH&S of the incident.
  11. Remain outside the immediate area until cylinder contents have been exhausted.
  12. Return cylinder to supplier for needed repairs.

Major Leaks

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, securing entrances and providing assistance to 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 details of the incident upon their 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.