Many industrial and medical processes require the use of gases that can be hazardous if not used in the prescribed manner. These gases are generally contained in metal cylinders that require specific handling during transport and when in use. Most safety training programs include the proper handling and use of dangerous gases to ensure that workers are protected from injury or death.
Propane gas may be used for powering material handling equipment and other types of industrial machinery. However, when propane burns incompletely, it can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide, an extremely hazardous gas, in enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and can only be detected through special devices that sound an alarm when levels become dangerous. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause loss of consciousness and death.
Many manufacturing and fabrication companies have products that must be welded, a type of fusion of metal that is long lasting and cost-effective. Welding requires the use of certain gases, such as helium, argon, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. These gases are not directly hazardous, but can cause asphyxiation when they collect in unvented work areas. In addition, the welding process itself can cause the production of gases that can cause a danger to operators and others in the area. Carbon monoxide can be produced from the carbon dioxide shielding gas. Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide is generated from nitrogen gases when heated or mixed in the air. Dizziness, shortness of breath, headache and fatigue can result. The chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents used to degrease materials before welding can also present a hazard when the vapors decompose into hazardous compounds. Proper venting of work areas and regular use of respiratory equipment can prevent hazardous buildup of these compounds.
Safe Handling Procedures for Hazardous Gases
A number of procedures have been developed to prevent accidents and health hazards that can result from dangerous gases in the workplace. Aside from consulting an air quality service like Stephenson Environmental Management Australia, some procedures include:
- All gas cylinders must be clearly labeled for contents
- Supervisors should inspect cylinders on a regular basis to ensure no leaks are apparent and that cylinders are in functioning condition.
- All employees handling the gas cylinders should receive specific training in safe handling and storage of hazardous gases.
- Transporting of hazardous gas cylinders should only be done by trained personnel in approved vehicles.
- Regulators should be removed from cylinders before transport.
- Any unidentified tank should be removed from service to avoid injuries from unknown substances.
Comprehensive safety training should include proper handling of these gases and the use of respiratory devices when welding or using other types of industrial equipment.