Pressurized cylinders are common items that you’ll find in various settings. They’re used during emergency operations, gas distribution, and when welding. There are aviation purposes for them. They’re also used for fire suppression and for dispensing beverages. Because pressurized cylinders are safe most of the time, people often skip taking precautions. However, these cylinders can be extremely dangerous.
Level of Danger Pressurized Cylinders Present
Because pressurized cylinders make modern life more enjoyable, cylinder services are considered indispensable these days. Yet, not following all safety precautions can be highly dangerous. Although stored cylinders can explode, USA Safety says most cylinder accidents happen during handling or transporting them. After a cylinder explodes, it’s not always known exactly what caused the explosion. That’s because the evidence is frequently completely blown up, burned, or missing. Not only do cylinders destroy items, but they also commonly blow apart the bodies of their handlers. People nearby also sometimes suffer injuries. Handling pressurized cylinders is a matter of life or death. There are no do-overs.
Training and Protocol
Knowing how to properly handle pressurized cylinders whenever using, transporting, or filling them would prevent many explosions. Training types available include filling station and cylinder training. Trained employees and others know what to look for when they inspect a cylinder. This includes things like damage and the temperature the cylinders are being subjected to. Trained handlers know what to do about the questionable cylinders they run across. They also know how to safely handle the safer ones.
There are even safety precautions for cylinders that are not being handled. One proper protocol would be to properly secure cylinders when they’re not in use. The other main protocol has to do with safety caps. Safety caps need to be put on top of the brass valves of unused cylinders. That’s because brass is a comparatively weaker metal that could bend or break if the cylinder it’s attached to topples over. That seemingly small accident could actually result in an explosion and loss of life. Oddly, trained people usually ignore both of these known protocol measures.
Visitors should be told about the potential danger of the pressurized cylinders. Untrained people should never be allowed to handle them. Some cylinders are heavy, making them more likely to be dropped or toppled over. If the aforementioned brass valve or the cylinder body gets damaged, the cylinder could explode. Such a thing happened when two brothers waiting for their dad in the family car were asked by an executive to transport a heavy cylinder. The explosion was so bad, the boys’ bodies were blown to pieces as their dad watched.
The Role of OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates companies in the United States. OSHA conducts random checks of workplace safety, follows up on complaints, and investigates workplace accidents. As an employer, it’s in your best interest to ensure that all employees learn all about pressurized cylinders. OSHA will be interested in whether cylinder handlers are trained in cylinder basics, use and handling, moving and transporting, storing, purchasing and receiving, labeling, and many other things.
When on-site, OSHA will look at everything when investigating an incident. Any violations observed become part of the incident investigation. If a cylinder explosion happens, OSHA will look at violation notes they have from previous visits. While there’s sometimes almost no evidence left when explosions occur, previous violations can be deemed as contributory. At that point, OSHA can fine the company thousands of dollars.
That’s what happened in 2019 after a fire and explosion occurred at a South Carolina marine terminal. The pressurized cylinders were in a large truck when the incident happened. The truck was destroyed. Fortunately, the driver survived, though with injuries. OSHA opened an investigation because of the injured employee. OSHA’s notes said that the company’s employees were not properly trained before the incident. It was apparent that nothing had changed. The cylinder valves were observed to have been left open, causing the accident. There was also a truckload of combustible items.
Pressurized cylinders have many uses and they’re used across different industries. They can be dangerous, which makes training and good habits necessary. OSHA enforces workplace safety, including handing out fines after a cylinder accident.