Depending on the type of gas, fire or an explosive situation may occur, as in the case of hydrogen, acetylene or propane, or a health hazardous situation, as in the case of carbon dioxide or anaesthetic gases. Gases that are not toxic can nevertheless be dangerous because they displace oxygen. This happens, for example, with nitrogen and helium. When working with gas cylinders, the gas is under high pressure. Incorrect use of the pressure regulator or falling, heating or rusting of the cylinder can cause the gas cylinder to shoot away as a projectile or even explode. This means that effective facilities are required when using and transporting gas cylinders and when storing gases.
UMCs use gases for various purposes. There is a distinction between:
Technical gases: these are used for non-medical and other applications;
Medical gases: these are used in the treatment of patients, for example oxygen and anaesthetic gases.
According to the PGS 15 guideline, gas cylinders must be stored in a fireproof storage cabinet if the total volume of the gas cylinders in the room exceeds 115 litres. The following measures and facilities are required to work safely:
- Fasten gas cylinders securely during stationary storage, use and movement to prevent damage. Place them in (movable) racks or against a wall.
- Make sure the gas cylinders are in good technical condition and have them periodically inspected by the supplier.
- Do not use damaged or expired gas cylinders. Also, do not store them and dispose of them as soon as possible.
- Make sure that the valves of gas cylinders are well protected against damage that could cause gas to be released.
- Protect gas cylinders from warming, heating or adverse weather conditions.
- Do not place gas cylinder batteries in the workplace if they contain flammable, toxic, asphyxiating, or oxygen-enhancing gases. Put them in a room that can only be accessed from the outside.
- Provide outdoor ventilation or mechanical ventilation in rooms containing gas cylinders containing flammable, toxic, asphyxiating, or oxygen-enriched gases. At the entrances, provide these rooms on the outside with a hazard symbol with the correct caption. Examples include 'flammable gases – smoking and naked flames prohibited', 'poisonous, stupefying, asphyxiating gases' or 'oxygen-enriched gases – smoking and naked flames prohibited’.
- Ensure that the electrical installation in rooms containing flammable gases is explosion-proof.
- Do not store gas cylinders near basements, wells, sewers and other areas below ground level where gas may accumulate.
- Make sure there is an easily accessible extinguisher that is well protected from the elements in the vicinity of gas cylinders. You can choose from the following devices:
- A dry-powder extinguisher with a capacity of at least 6 kg extinguishing powder;
- A CO2 extinguisher with an extinguishing equivalent of 6 kg of powder.
- Store oxygen cylinders separately from gas cylinders for flammable gases.
- Make sure that the connection of an oxygen cylinder to a pipe system is such that no other gas cylinders can be connected to it.
- Do not use flammable containers and grease for oxygen cylinder valves.
- Do not use copper (or alloys with more than 63% copper) for pipes and fittings that may come into contact with acetylene. Ensure that gas cylinders containing extremely toxic substances, such as arsine and phosphine, are equipped with two independent in-block valves during intermediate storage and operation. Store in separate rooms. Avoid exposing staff to gases or vapours in the operating theatres whenever possible.