Gases and cryogenics - general information

Main hazards associated with compressed gases

Impact from the blast of a gas cylinder explosion or rapid release of compressed gas. This could happen irrespective of the type of gases involved. Impact from parts of gas cylinders that fail or any flying debris.

Contact with the released gas. Specific hazards will vary according to the nature of the gas but inhalation and skin / eye contact are all issues.

Non-toxic, non-corrosive gases may cause asphyxiation if they are able to displace oxygen from the local atmosphere, therefore ventilation may be an issue.

Fire resulting from the escape of flammable gas. Leaking flammable gases such as hydrogen may ignite and result in a fire. You will need to record on the form the types of flammable gases you are using.

Impact from falling cylinders. This may occur during transit or during storage if not properly secured.

Who is at risk?

You should identify on your risk assessment form those who may be at risk.

The workers directly involved in using the gases are usually at most risk, though others could be affected – other workers in the vicinity (a large fire or leak of toxic gas could affect those in a wide area), cleaners, maintenance staff & contractors (are they introducing additional risks by being there e.g. hot works?) and other visitors.

Your controls should give priority to protecting the whole workplace and everyone who works there i.e. give collective protective measures priority over individual measures.

Storage of compressed gases inside

Keep the absolute minimum in laboratories. Separate cylinders from populated workspaces and segregate oxidants from fuels.

Do not keep very toxic or pyrophoric gases indoors.

Ensure that area is adequately ventilated. Ensure that area is adequately lit.

Signage and gas detection equipment and alarms should be seriously considered.

Ensure that cylinders are stored upright (unless they are specifically designed to be stored any other way) and are adequately restrained by chains or straps unless they are specifically designed to be free standing.

Avoid extremes of temperature, including direct sunlight. Keep cylinders away from sources of ignition and other flammable materials.

Storage of compressed gases outside

Ideally, industrial gases (oxygen, nitrogen, argon etc.) should be stored in a caged compound.

The floor should be level, have adequate drainage and be of a construction that is able to support the weight.

Some degree of weather protection is recommended – this would assist safe handling, avoid puddles, ice formation in cold weather etc.


The College pressure fittings safety course should be attended. See list of safety courses accessible through the Departmental Safety web page.

Gases and cryogenics - specific information

Safety Department links

Gases and cryogenics

Departmental contacts

ESE safety staff