What’s wrong with this compressed gas cylinder? #HazardSpotting

| October 1, 2013 | 3 Comments

#HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations. Our audience submits pictures, and we write an article with insight from featured safety professionals. In our twelfth edition, we’re examining transportation and storage hazards of compressed gas cylinders with guest insight from Frank Fox.

Some things you stumble upon make you wonder if common sense is a common virtue. Case in point: one of our readers strolled by a restaurant where a worker was lowering unmarked compressed gas cylinders down a steel ladder with an old piece of frayed rope tied to a metal hook, which was then hooked through the cylinder cap. Below him, another worker caught the cylinder as it slid down. Sound dangerous? We welcome back Frank Fox from our urban construction article to add his safety expertise in helping us identify the hazards.

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Missing identification

One of the bigger issues here is that there’s no labeling as to what type of gas is inside the cylinder, which OSHA certainly has something to say about. 29 CFR 1910.253(b)(1)(ii) states that “Compressed gas cylinders shall be legibly marked, for the purpose of identifying the gas content, with either the chemical or the trade name of the gas. Such marking shall be by means of stenciling, stamping, or labeling, and shall not be readily removable. Whenever practical, the marking shall be located on the shoulder of the cylinder.”

Absent as well is a gas cylinder tag to demarcate the usage status – full, in service, or empty. When mishandled, compressed gas can be lethal; Frank mentions “if it is a gas that displaces oxygen, it could take the first lives that show up.”

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Transportation and slip, trip, and fall hazards

Further guidelines from the Compressed Gas Association, Inc. in 3.2.5 and 3.2.6, state “Avoid dragging or sliding cylinders. It is safer to move cylinders even short distances by using a suitable truck” and “Use [a] suitable hand truck, fork truck, roll platform or similar device with cylinder firmly secured for transporting and unloading.” The man handling the cylinders isn’t wearing gloves to protect his hands, as well as to prevent the rope from slipping and potentially setting off an explosion. Just like worn out car tires, wet skin doesn’t allow for much traction. Frank explains, “While he is lowering one cylinder, another is standing by itself instead of secured on the dolly.  It could end up back in the basement, or in the roadway.” It would be quite difficult for pedestrians and motorists to hurdle an errant cylinder barreling down the street.

Let’s turn our attention towards the surrounding terrain. Frank points out that footing could be suspect since the sidewalk is damp, a prime culprit for slip and fall dangers. He continues by suggesting placing “a toe board so if he slipped his feet would be stopped,” which could prevent an unpleasant tumble down the staircase and perhaps a trip to the emergency room.

Storage dangers

When the worker was asked what purpose the gas cylinders served, he answered that they are used for the restaurant’s ovens. 29 CFR 1910.253(b)(2)(i) and 1910.253(b)(2)(ii) mandate that compressed gas cylinders should be stored at least 20 feet away from radiators and other sources of heat; we have doubts about this restaurant’s compliance.

Valves can be neglected and left open, and hoses can rupture; since heat travels upwards and the storage space is underground and likely not well ventilated, it sounds like a botched recipe. CGA 3.3.2 outlines that “Cylinder storage areas should be prominently [postered] with the names of the gases to be stored.” This is yet another workplace safety shortcoming. The business owners could’ve done their due diligence and abided by NIOSH’s nifty compressed gas self-inspection checklist.

Did we miss any other violations? We’d appreciate your comments below.

Frank Fox, returning #HazardSpotting guest safety expert

Fox worked at a large chemical plant on the Texas coast for 40.2 years, and has “just about seen it all.” He hired in operations, and did Six Sigma on reduction of defects on Safe Work Permits. Fox taught Safety Standards at the local community college to new employees in two-year associate degree programs. Since he wasn’t issued a door knob with his name on it, Fox worked his way into EH&S and was effective with operations because of his extensive experience. As Fox himself says, “I wasn’t just someone in a pair of Dockers being a pest. I rather liked safety, and it seemed funny I was paid for something I enjoyed.”

Once again, MySafetySign thanks Frank Fox for his collaboration and help!

More about #HazardSpotting

Think you’ve seen an unsafe work condition? Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or food safety, we’ll investigate the hazard. Snap a picture and share your story with us by sending an email to the editor at Krissa (at) SmartSign (dot) com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert.

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Category: #HazardSpotting, Chemicals

About the Author ()

Half-stallion, half-cyborg*, Mike found his way eastward after 24 lovely years in Denver. Mike enjoys living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, rooting on his Colorado sports teams (Go Broncos!), wearing sandals in the winter, and home brewing beer. Previous to his role of Social Media Manager at SmartSign, Mike worked in the finance industry. He's a critically acclaimed haikuist under the pen name, Maiku. He can count to 10 in eight languages, including English, Hebrew, Hungarian, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, and Pig Latin. His lofty life goals include learning how to fly fish, acquiring proper pizza dough spinning technique, and figuring out how to whistle. You can find him frequently smacking his head on ceilings, door posts, and exit signs, (he's tall) or tweeting at @SmartSign. *Editor's Note: Since cyborgs are technically half-robot and half-human, Mike's specific heritage is quarter-robot, quarter-human, and half-stallion.

Comments (3)

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  1. Harris Clampitt says:

    This is not the factory situation that most of us have seen. I have to wonder how much space is available in the basement where this gas is going to be used. I have to ask who is supplying unlabeled compressed gas? Is it reasonable for each user to have appropriate equipment to safely move compressed gas? Should the the supplier be required to deliver to the point where it will be used?

    Knowing that is situation is not safe, would you enter this building???

    • Mike Miles says:

      Harris, the typical square footage of New York City restaurant basements is not spacious by any means. We weren’t able to obtain the supplier’s name, unfortunately. It’s absolutely appropriate to give workers access to sufficient safety equipment when transporting cylinders, and we want to use this scenario as an educational tool for our readers if they come across a similar situation in the future. Thanks for all the questions, and reading the article! I don’t about you, but I certainly wouldn’t enter a building with errant flammable tanks underground. Heat rises, after all.

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