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Safe Handling Practice – Chlorine Cylinder Change Out

- March 9, 2018 by Mark Yeck, CIH, CSP (View all posts by Mark)

The changing out of gas cylinders in some industries is a somewhat routine event. Spent cylinders are shut off, disconnected and removed from manifolds. New cylinders are reinstalled, checked for leaks and turned on. This work is often done by a gas supply company, lab technicians or facility maintenance personnel.
This process may often be overlooked in safe Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) development or Job Hazards Analysis (JHA) documentation since it takes place in laboratories, service  areas and often remote manifold locations. Although much of the gasses in use are comprised of simple asphyxiants like Nitrogen, more toxic gasses are frequently in use too and require special handling. Chlorine is one of these gases.

In this blog, I’ll be discussing safe practices for chlorine cylinder change out. Before discussing best practices for handling cylinders, it is worth noting three actions to consider:

  • Eliminate the exposure or limit exposure to a only certain trained employees
  • Complete JHA that includes personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Develop spill and leak emergency protocol

Eliminating exposure is always the preferred option. Utilizing a service company with highly trained and equipped personnel removes handling risk from your employees.
Another key activity could be completing a personal protective equipment assessment or including that element within a JHA.  During cylinder changes, there can be exposure to leaks, a most likely scenario is respiratory, skin, eye, face, hand, and arm exposure during a leak. Chlorine rated PPE will help protect your employees.

Cylinder handling best practices include:

  • Storing cylinders upright at all times with valve protection in place
  • Chaining or clamping cylinders secure in storage and use configurations
  • Not lifting cylinders by the valve protector
  • Understanding leak detection such as use of chlorine vapor kits

Maintain leak stop or repair equipment such as non-sparking wrench and cylinder containment vessels in vicinity ready for use only by trained personnel. Employees also must be aware of what to do during a spill or leak. The best practice is to evacuate. Part of an emergency plan (which also may be captured in a JHA) includes awareness of cylinder locations, such as confined space or semi-confined areas like a stair well. People should not be using exit routes that contain potentially hazardous cylinders. Early leak detection and alarm devices should be considered in your emergency plan. Chlorine has good warning properties, so recognizing an exposure isn’t as hard as with other gases, but the best exposure is zero exposure since chlorine also can cause severe lung, skin, and eye burns.

For emergency response to a Chlorine incident, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) with chlorine rated full body suits are the required emergency response equipment unless an on-site coordinator has designated otherwise. It is worth noting that emergency response requires training based on response level to be performed. A risk assessment must be performed to determine what employees should and should not do in an emergency situation. In many cases, Chlorine emergencies should be left to the professionals and employees should plan to evacuate.

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