Gas cylinder suspected in dental lab explosion

By: January 24th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

An explosion in a dental laboratory that injured 12 British workers is a reminder to be vigilant in lab safety, especially in the use and storage of compressed gas.

The explosion that ripped through a Staffordshire dental lab on January 21 Friday caused considerable damage and concern according to the BBC: doors and windows lasted out, three women were taken to hospital; a nearby school was put on alert were alerted to the explosion by text message.

Police suspect a leak from a gas cylinder caused the incident.

“An exploding cylinder can have the same destructive effect as a bomb, potentially injuring those in the vicinity,” writes Terry Jo Gile, MT(ASCP, MA Ed. in a “Safe use of compressed gas” post. The presence of only one cylinder is a potential hazard.

Gile’s Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety has a section dedicated compressed gas cylinder safety. Here is what the Guide says about storage of gas cylinders:

Store cylinders upright in a safe, well-ventilated area away from heat and electrical wiring. The storage area must be fire-resistant and free from combustible materials. Never subject compressed gas cylinders to temperatures higher than 125°F. Secure compressed gas cylinders with a chain to the wall, and position them upright in an appropriate nontip base. Store cylinders in an assigned area, preferably in a storage enclosure designed specifically for compressed gas storage, with ventilation that escapes to the outside. Keep them away from sources of ignition or excessive heat. Do not store more than two working days’ worth of gas in the lab; store the smallest appropriate container of each gas. Keep ambient temperatures below 85°F. When storing more than one type of gas in the same area, group gases by type. Separate fuel gases (acetylene, propane, hydrogen, etc.) from those that support combustion (O2, Cl2, etc.).

Do not store full reserve cylinders of flammable gases or empty cylinders in the laboratory. Keep additional supplies of gas cylinders on the receiving dock or in another well-ventilated area.

Click here for the archive of Gile’s posts on lab safety. Also, check out these lab safety tools,  Proper Storage Considerations for Chemicals and  Laboratory Safety Recordkeeping Requirements, on the Tools page.


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