Alert issued over safe use of medical oxygen cylinders

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Tuesday, 8 October, 2019 - 12:45
Policy & legislation
Western Australia

WorkSafe WA recently issued a safety alert on the safe use of medical oxygen cylinders following an incident in which two workers were injured performing maintenance tasks on a cylinder.

During a lifeguard training session in July 2019, a new cylinder was to be fitted to an Oxy-Viva set.

Two workers were injured when a worker ‘cracked’ a ‘C’ size medical oxygen cylinder. Cracking involves opening the valve slightly then closing it with the intention of removing any contaminants from the outlet of the cylinder.

The cylinder was not secured and one of the workers lost control of it and it shot through the air.

The valve spindle broke off on contact with the ground, leaving a short stub which cut a groove in a person’s leg.

Travelling further, it broke another person’s leg and toes.

The outlet on the valve was at the side, influencing the cylinder’s random path.

The supplier’s information warned not to crack the cylinder, as the outlet was shrink-wrapped to keep it clean.

The alert said there were a number of contributing factors to the incident:

  • The cylinder was not restrained in a cradle or support frame.
  • Workplace procedures supported cracking the cylinder.
  • The worker cracked the cylinder prior to fitting the regulator.
  • The valve may have been cracked too far, as there is no indication of how far to turn it when cracking.
  • The cylinder behaved unpredictably due to the pressure of the released gas (as the supplier information states) and travelled several metres.