Many businesses store, use or transport gas bottles with very little attention paid to the many hazards that they can present. For example, these heavy bottles can cause damage or injury if they fall from height, flammable gases can start a fire if released accidentally, rapid release of contents can cause impact damage – and there are all the manual handling issues surrounding lifting and manoeuvring weighty, cumbersome objects.
Making sure your gas bottles are stored securely and can be moved around easily and safely doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Read on for our top tips for safe handling and storage practices:
Always make sure to store your pressurised gas bottles in well-ventilated areas, and away from possible or likely ignition sources. Ideally, store them in a cage or secure area outdoors, where any leaks or releases will not build up into a hazard. Always store and use gas bottles in the upright position. Secure your bottles with chains to prevent them from falling or tipping.
Like with like
The gas bottle storage area should be organised so that multiple bottles of the same gas are stored together in groups to reduce the chances of a mix-up resulting in the wrong gas being used. Empty and full bottles should be kept separate – more to minimise confusion and streamline your processes than anything else. Even empty bottles should be kept in their groups, though.
Is it empty?
By their nature, gas bottles are heavy and opaque. It can be difficult to assess if your bottle is empty just by looking or lifting, so you’ll need to weigh it. The bottle should be marked with how much it weighs when empty, so if you weigh your bottle and it is 15kg, with a marked weight of 12kg – you’ve got 3kg of gas in it. For LPG bottles, it is vital that you treat even ‘empty’ bottles as if they were full, as they will inevitably have some vapour remaining in them.
Always try to avoid moving gas bottles by hand if you can help it – use appropriate manual handling equipment like a gas cylinder trolley (with a chain) or a forklift clamp attachment. This will minimise the chance of the bottle being dropped and damaged, as well as any strains or other injuries caused by the killer combination of heavy bottles and poor handling techniques.
What is the law?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) writes the guidelines on health and safety in the UK and in relation to gas bottle storage these include:
- The maximum size of any LPG cylinder stack should not exceed 30,000kg
- Cylinders should preferably be stored in the open air, on a concrete or load-bearing surface
- If storing indoors, no more than 5,000kg may be stored in each purpose-built building compartment
- A maximum of five different purpose-built building compartments may exist in any one building
Make sure to check the HSE website for the up to date and complete rules and guidelines, and consult with an expert if you are in any doubt or need further advice.
What about best practice?
The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has outlined some best practice guidelines for moving gas cylinders, including:
- Staff should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to the task
- Never roll cylinders as they will become damaged or weakened and you might accidentally open the valve or remove or deface important safety labels
- Never move your bottles with the valve open
Other top best practice tips include:
- Making sure that you never use tools to open or close valves – they should be firmly and tightly closed or opened by hand only
- Make sure there are no naked flames or ignition sources nearby when you change bottles
- Display safety and operating notices clearly and prominently
- Never store gas bottles below ground level, as leaks will build up and collect at low levels
- Only stock the minimum amount of gases that you need for your operations
- Adopt a first in, first out policy to ensure that your gas stocks are rotated
Author Bio: First Mats started life as safety matting specialists, but have since expanded to become a complete industrial and commercial supplies company. The focus of First Mats is to provide safety-focused products that improve the wellbeing of staff through quality approved products, backed up by extensive knowledge. www.firstmats.co.uk