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Safe use of compressed gases

The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here. [1]

George was a technologist who worked with liquid nitrogen. He was in the habit of taking shortcuts when he worked, and today was no exception. After all, he’d been a lab employee for more than 30 years and knew his way around the policies and procedures. When he noticed that the pressure- relief valve on a compressed gas cylinder had ruptured the burst disc, he solved the problem with a couple of brass plugs and went on a lunch break. When he returned, George discovered that the cylinder had exploded and shot across the room, lodging itself in a brick wall.

Lessons learned from this experience:

Compressed gases are hazardous due to high pressure and the nature of gas. Pressure creates the possibility of explosion, either of the container itself or by escaping gas. Different gases present different chemical hazards, potentially including fire, toxicity, corrosion, or asphyxiation by air displacement. Only a few types of gases are used in clinical laboratories, but a potential hazard is present even with just one cylinder.