Physical Hazards

Compressed Gas Cylinders

Compressed gas cylinders pose a serious physical safety hazard, not only because the gas contained could cause asphyxiation, but because the cylinder is highly pressurized. A ruptured tank could reach velocities up to 66 mph; enough force to penetrate concrete walls. Additionally, the gas contained could be associated with a chemical hazard (e.g., flammability, oxidizing agent). 

Gas Cylinder Safety:

  • Gas cylinders must be secured using a strap or chain to prevent the cylinder from tipping over and rupturing.
  • A cylinder must be capped, when not in use. The valve, which is protected by the cap, is the most vulnerable part of the tank.
  • Mark cylinders as "empty" when appropriate.
  • Frequently inspect the integrity of hoses, tubing, and regulators to avoid a potential gas leak. 

The following video demonstrates the importance of following safety procedures when working with compressed gas cylinders.

Cryogenic Liquids/Cryogens

Cryogens are liquefied gases that are kept in their liquid state  at very low temperatures. All cyrogens are gases at normal temperatures and pressures. Liquid nitrogen is the most widely used non-flammable cryogen. Such materials may cause tissue damage or asphyxiation in poorly ventilated areas. 

Safety Precautions:

  • Wear a knee length lab coat, closed-toe shoes, eye protection, and loose-fitting insulated gloves when handling cryogenic liquids.
  • When using cyrogenic liquids to cool an object, insert the object slowly using tongs. This practice minimizes any boiling and splashing which occurs when warm objects are added rapidly.
  • Never wear watches, rings, bracelets, or other jewelry; if splashed by a cryogen, these items can freeze to the exposed skin.
  • Storage tanks/cylinders are not permitted to be stored in emergency egress corridors.   
Slips, Trips, and Falls

Slips, trips, and falls occurring at the workplace often result from failure to keep floors free from spills, cords, or obstructions. Falls can occur when ladders/step stools are not used or maintained properly. Slips, trips, and falls can result in back injuries, strains, contusions, and fractures.

Safety Precautions:

  • Floors should be kept clean and dry, to prevent slips.
  • Warning signs are to be displayed for any area where a slip hazard exists.
  • Keep aisles and passageways clear of obstructions.
  • Temporary electrical cords across aisles must be taped or anchored to the floor.