This guide gives an overview of OSHA, CGA and NFPA guidelines for the safe storage and handling of compressed gas cylinder equipment.

Meet OSHA Requirements for Storage & Handling

Whether your company has just received a visit from OSHA or you're setting up a new work environment, it's important to understand how to safely store and handle gas cylinders.

The following guide will point out key gas cylinder safety standards and guidelines, as well as illustrate the need for those guidelines.

Gas cylinder rack Sign - Safety First

Standard Measurements & Capacity

The most commonly used gas cylinders come in these measurements:

  • Height: 4-5 feet tall
  • Weight: 75-80 pounds (empty), up to 270 pounds (filled)
  • Pressure: 2,200 pounds per square inch (psi)

While this may not sound particularly heavy, serious injury can occur if these cumbersome objects are moved incorrectly or fall on an employee.

Types of Cylinders

Gas cylinders can be made from a variety of materials, but there are four general classes:

  • Type 1 - Metal only, either seamless forged metal or seamless steel
  • Type 2 - Metal vessel, hoop wrapped with a fiber composite
  • Type 3 - Thin metal liner, wrapped with fiber
  • Type 4 - Metal-free liner from plastic, wrapped with fiber

Types of Gases

Compressed gas cylinders can store flammable gases, like acetylene, and inert gases, like helium. Gas categories:

  • Liquefied gases: Gases that are a liquid-vapor balance or equilibrium inside the cylinder, but which can become liquids at normal temperatures inside cylinders under pressure. Examples are anyhydrous ammonia, chlorine, propane, and carbon dioxide.
  • Non-liquefied gases: Pressurized or permanent gases do not become liquid when compressed at normal temperature, no matter the pressure. Examples are: oxygen, nitrogen, helium, and argon.
  • Dissolved gases: Very unstable gases, like acetylene, which can explode at atmospheric pressure. These gases are packed with an inert, porous filler to prevent explosions.

Types of Gas Cylinder Hazards

There are two primary types of hazards associated with the use, storage and handling of compressed gas cylinders:

  1. The chemical hazard associated with the cylinder contents (corrosive, toxic, flammable, etc)
  2. The physical hazard represented by the presence of a heavy, high pressure vessel (explosion, fire, falling cylinder, etc)

Regulations & Guidelines

Regulations established by government agencies, trade associations and the local authority having jurisdiction are put into place to minimize the risks associated with gas cylinders.

A few of the most important organizations include:

  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • CGA (Compressed Gas Association)
  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
  • ICC (International Code Council)

You can read excerpts from the guidelines of those organizations that pertain to gas cylinders here:
View cylinder safety guidelines

Use and Handling

The majority of incidents and injuries involving gas cylinders occur during handling or transportation. Observe the following tips when transporting cylinders:

  • Handle cylinders with care and avoid dropping or hitting them against anything.
  • Follow proper procedures and use the right equipment, including safety glasses, heavy-duty gloves and protective footwear.
  • Ensure safety measures, such as caps or guards, are securely installed.
  • Use a cart or hand truck instead of dragging or rolling cylinders.
  • Use proper cradles, nets or platforms if using a crane.
  • Avoid lifting cylinders by their caps or guards or with magnets or slings, which can damage the valves.

Storage Requirements

OSHA 1910.101(b), NFPA 1, and the CGA Pamphlet P1-1965 each outline requirements for storage and handling of compressed gases.

Important storage requirements include:

  • Limit access to storage area to authorized personnel
  • Keep cylinders vertical
  • Secure with straps or chains connected to a wall bracket or other fixed surface, or by use of a cylinder stand to prevent falling
  • Restraints must be fastened on the upper half of the cylinder above the center of gravity
  • Full cylinders should be stored separate from empty cylinders
  • Storage area needs to be ventilated, clean and dry
  • Do not let indoor temperature exceed 100°F (38°C)
  • Safety caps on cylinders
Sign - Caution

Transportation Requirements

  • Use a hand truck or cart designed to move cylinders
  • Do not handle more than one cylinder at a time unless a cart that is designed for such purpose is utilized
  • Keep cylinder vertical, except for short periods of time while cylinders are being hoisted or carried
  • OSHA regulations need to be followed on the job site, which can vary depending on site location.
  • Over the road transport is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) where the movement is taking place. Check with the DOT in your State for specific requirements.
Gas cylinder rack for transport
Transport Rack
Model # GR2275FS

Purchasing and Receiving

When purchasing and accepting shipment of gas cylinders, make sure that all cylinders are marked with correct labels (see the labeling section below). Do not rely on the color of the cylinder as the only determination of its contents. Make sure that the label is applied to the cylinder itself, not just the cap.

Cylinders should have a hydrostatic test date within the last five years. It is not legal to transport a cylinder that is past its hydrostatic test certification date.

Cylinder caps and valves should not be more than hand-tightened. If you are unable to open the cylinder valve and cap with only hand pressure, do not take receipt of the cylinder.


Cylinders must be labeled with the following information:

  • DOT or ICC (prior to 1968) identification number - ex. DOT3AA2265.
  • Cylinder serial number - ex. SG12152A.
  • Original owner of the cylinder - ex. APROINC
  • Date of maintenance to indicate the original hydrostatic test (month/year).
  • Current owner of the cylinder on the neck ring.
  • Retest markings to indicate if the cylinder qualifies for a 10 percent overfill or meets the requirements for a 10-year retest.
  • CylinderTrak bar code to track cylinders through the filling process.
  • Cylinder manufacturer's inspection marking, which is unique to the inspector.
  • Cylinder tare weight, i.e. the weight of the cylinder plus the valve without product, preceded by the letters "TW".
  • Cylinders must also identify their contents, which is typically in the form of a sticker applied near the neck of the cylinder. This is the only acceptable means of identifying non-medical-grade cylinder contents! There are only five medical grade gases that are permitted to be identified by color. All others are not required to be color-coded, and color codes may vary from one supplier to another.

Regulators, Caps, and Accessories

A regulator allows the high pressure in a gas cylinder to be reduced to a manageable and usable pressure. A regulator controls delivery pressure and should not be used for flow control. Regulators can be single-stage or two-stage.

A single-stage pressure regulator is used when inlet pressure does not vary greatly or when readjusting the inlet pressures does not cause a problem with the experiment/application. The pressure adjustment handle will need to be regularly adjusted to maintain a constant outlet pressure.

A two-stage pressure regulator is used with gas cylinders to deliver a constant pressure of gas without constant minor adjustments of the pressure adjustment handle when the pressure inside the cylinder changes. The first stage of this regulator decreases the inlet pressure to a preset pressure. The second stage then reduces this pressure to the desired delivery pressure.

Most states require that a valve cap is placed over the valve during transport and while the tanks is being stored for more than 24 hours without use.


Disposal of full or partially full cylinders requires HazMat certification for shipping. To dispose of a cylinder, first ensure that it is empty of its contents. At that point you have three choices, depending on the type of cylinder and type of gas stored:

  • Contact a recycling facility which accepts shipping of empty cylinders.
  • Refill the cylinder for reuse if refilling of that substance is allowed and the cylinder is rated for refilling.
  • Dispose of the cylinder via landfill if allowed in your area, or have it recycled for scrap metal.

Separate Oxygen & Fuel Cylinders

OSHA requires that oxygen and fuel cylinders be separated by a noncombustible barrier.

This is to minimize the risk of hazards such as fire and explosion.

According to OSHA 1926.35(a)(10):

"Oxygen cylinders in storage shall be separated from fuel-gas cylinders or combustible materials (especially oil or grease), a minimum distance of 20 feet or by a noncombustible barrier at least 5 feet tall having a fire-resistant rating of at least one-half hour."

The risk of fire is demonstrated in this video.

You can read more about this topic in our expanded article about firewall barriers.

Need a noncombustible barrier for your workplace? USA Safety Firewall Barriers have an OSHA-compliant fire-resistant rating of one hour (exceeds 1/2 hour requirement).

Firewall Cart
Firewall Cart
Model # HT3901FS

Potential Hazards of Gas Cylinders

Here are examples of significant hazards that can result from improper use of gas cylinders:

  • Explosion
  • Fire
  • Oxygen displacement
  • Death
  • Back injury
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Eye injury
Signs - Hazard Types

Demonstration of Safety Risk

This video clip from the show Mythbusters, shows the an experiment that demonstrates the destructive potential of a ruptured gas tank.
View on YouTube

Personal Protective Equipment

The Safety Data Sheets for each gas you will be using should detail the types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that should be used. Staff should be trained on the use of PPE, and it should be maintained and storing correctly.

Commonly required PPE:

  • Eye protection, often full goggles instead of standard safety glasses
  • Protective gloves, possibly including some type of cold insulation, depending on the type of gas
  • Protective footwear to prevent damage from cylinders slipping or falling
  • Breathing apparatus
  • Protective clothing, like coveralls or overalls
  • Hearing protection

Emergency Procedures

Emergencies can develop related to compressed gas cylinders due to:

  • Fire threatening a cylinder
  • Leaking of toxic gases
  • Inert gas leaks causing low oxygen in a room
  • Unplanned chemical or other reaction

If a leak cannot be fixed by tightening fittings, or any other emergency situation arises, the area should be evacuated. No one should attempt to move the cylinder, and emergency personnel should be contacted and notified of the location of the cylinders. More extensive emergency procedures should be developed by each organization housing cylinders.


A variety of training materials from online retailers are available on dealing with gas cylinders. These courses can often be taken for continuing education credit and certification with the American Board of Industrial Hygiene or the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Quality training should cover all the topics presented in this guide in a clear, understandable format to ensure the safety of the workplace or job site for all employees.

More Information

The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is the general term used to describe the person or group that approves of equipment, installation or procedure for public safety.

The AHJ could fall under any of these organizations:

AHJ Logos

The information on this page is intended to provide a broad overview of the requirements for working with, transporting and storing gas cylinders. This information should not be taken as legal advice. Every situation is unique and it is best to consult with your local authority having jurisdiction to be sure all safety requirements are being followed. USA Safety Solutions, Inc. assumes no liability for the use of this information.