Safety Policies

SY25 Compressed Gas Cylinders

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Jim Crandall, 863-3767,

Policy Steward: 

Director of Environmental Health and Safety



The objective of this policy is to ensure the safe and proper handling, storage and use of compressed gas cylinders. This policy applies to all locations of the Pennsylvania State University (except the Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine).

This policy does not apply to propane used for cooking purposes, for forklift propane tanks or for carbon dioxide used for beverage dispensing.


Standard No. 55, Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code – National Fire Protection Association.


  1. The University shall only use cylinders that meet Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for the transportation and storage of compressed gases.
  2. Purchasing and Delivery
    1. At University Park, all compressed gas cylinders, including lecture bottles, are to be ordered through General Stores unless granted specific exception by the Manager of General Stores in consultation with Central Purchasing.  It is General Stores responsibility to deliver cylinders to on-campus facilities at University Park.  Vendors’ direct deliveries to various colleges and departments will not be permitted unless granted specific exception.
    2. At non-University Park locations, in order to receive the University’s contract pricing, it is recommended that all gas cylinders be purchased through the University’s contracted gas supplier, if located near a campus.  If the University contracted gas cylinder supplier is not located near a campus, the campus can purchase their gas cylinders through a local supplier.
  3. No cylinders shall be recharged by University personnel without special consent from the cylinder owner, and then only in accordance with DOT regulations. This requirement also applies to the transfer of gas from one cylinder to another. This portion of the policy does not apply to scuba tanks or self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) tanks.
  4. Changing of compressed gas cylinders shall be done only by trained personnel.
  5. It is illegal to change the stamped marks on any compressed gas cylinder.
  6. Each cylinder should be provided with the proper DOT label required for the gas contained.
  7. All compressed gases shall be used only for their intended purpose.
  8. If a non-DOT approved cylinder is found, the cost to transfer the contents to an approved cylinder and/or the cost of disposal of the non-approved cylinder shall be the responsibility of the Department or Unit where the cylinder was found.
  9. Smoking shall not be permitted with 20 feet of any compressed gas cylinder.
  10. It is recommended that compressed gas users review Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) before using any compressed gas.


  1. No one shall deface or remove any markings, labels, decals, tags or stencil marks which have been applied/attached for the identification of a cylinder. The cost of determining the contents of an unknown cylinder shall be the responsibility of the Department or Unit.
  2. It is the ultimate responsibility of the cylinder user, upon returning an empty cylinder, to close valves and make certain that all valve caps are in place. Also, a tag shall be attached reading "empty."
  3. Compressed gas cylinders shall not be subjected to a temperature above 125oF. Open flame should never be permitted to come into contact with any part of a compressed gas cylinder. Flames should be kept as far away as possible from compressed gas cylinders. When in doubt, flames should be kept at least 20 feet from any compressed gas cylinder.
  4. Cylinders should not be subjected to artificially created low temperatures without the approval of the vendor due to possible decreased ductility of the steel at low temperatures.
  5. Tampering with the safety relief devices in cylinder valves is not permitted.
  6. No University personnel are to attempt to repair or alter cylinders, valves, or other safety relief devices.
  7. Cylinders shall never be used as rollers, supports, or for any purpose other than to contain the contents as received.
  8. All cylinder valves are to be kept closed at all times, except when the cylinder is in use.
  9. General Stores or the vendor should be notified if any condition has occurred which may have permitted any foreign substance to enter a cylinder or valve.
  10. No cylinder is to be placed where it might become part of a "live" electrical circuit.
  11. No cylinders are to be repainted by University personnel unless authorized in writing by the vendor.
  12. All cylinders, including empties, are to be adequately secured by strap rack, heavy gauge chain or clamp to prevent them from falling while in use, being transported, or being stored.


  1. Whenever removable caps are provided for valve protection, they shall be kept in place when the cylinder is not in use.
  2. Cylinders shall never be lifted by the cap or valve.
  3. Cylinders should never be dropped or permitted to come into violent contact with each other.
  4. Magnets, slings, ropes or chains shall not be used to handle any cylinder. A suitable "truck" or cylinder cart shall be used.
  5. Avoid dragging, rolling or sliding cylinders whenever possible.
  6. When cylinders are being transported by truck, fork lift or cylinder cart, they shall be firmly secured.
  7. Transportation of >1000 pounds, either separately or combined, of oxygen, non-flammable or flammable compressed gas requires a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) as per PA Code Title 75, Chapter 16.


  1. All cylinders shall be stored in accordance with all Local, State and Municipal regulations, and in accordance with standards of other authorities having jurisdiction over the University.
  2. All cylinder storage areas shall be so posted with the names of the gases being stored.
  3. If gases of different types are being stored at the same location, the cylinders should be grouped by types of gas, and these groups should be arranged to take into account the gases contained.

    Example: Flammable gases should be stored as far away as possible from oxidizing gases.

  4. Full and empty cylinders are to be stored separately.
  5. No cylinder is to be stored near highly flammable substances such as oil, gasoline, etc.
  6. Due to the possibility of severe corrosion, cylinders shall not be exposed to continued dampness, nor near salt or other corrosives for extended periods.
  7. Cylinders are not to be stored near elevators, ramps or paths of normal egress, or in locations where heavy objects may strike or fall on them.
  8. Cylinders may be stored in the open as long as proper safeguards have been provided to prevent corrosion and protection from the elements.
  9. Cylinders shall be stored in a location that minimizes the chance of tampering and vandalism. This may involve the construction of barriers.


  1. Only experienced and trained personnel should handle compressed gases.
  2. No cylinder is to be used if the contents are not known or identified.
  3. Protective, removable caps are to be kept in place until the cylinder is to be used.
  4. Approved pressure regulating devices must be used in all cases when gas pressure in a system is to be lower than cylinder pressure.
  5. At no time should connections between cylinder and auxiliary equipment be forced. If the threads do not match, return the cylinder to General Stores or the vendor. Teflon tapes should never be used on cylinder or regulator connections.
  6. When compressed gas cylinders are connected to a manifold, all related equipment should be of a design which has been approved by EHS.
  7. Regulators, gauges, hoses, and other appliances used with a particular gas or group of gases must not be used on cylinders containing gases having different chemical properties unless the vendor grants permission in writing.
  8. All cylinder valves should be opened slowly to prevent ice formation. Appropriate tools should be used to tighten or loosen tank valves. If the valve will not readily open, return the cylinder to General Stores.
  9. Compressed gas shall not be used to remove foreign matter from clothing or any part of the human body.
  10. The cylinder user shall make certain that all appliance connections are tight to prevent leakage. All connections shall be tested with a soapy water solution ("Snoop"). The system shall be slowly and partially pressurized and leak- tested before fully pressurizing the system.
  11. Before a regulator is removed from a cylinder, the cylinder valve shall be closed and all pressure released from the regulator and system.


  1. No cylinders are to be stored near highly flammable solvents, combustible waste material, unprotected electrical connections, gas flames, or other sources of ignition.
  2. At no time should a flame be used to detect a leak. A soapy water solution ("Snoop") or approved commercial leak detection solution shall be used.
  3. Inside buildings, stored oxygen shall be separated from flammable gas cylinders by a minimum of 20 feet, or separated by a fire resistant partition with a height no less than that of the cylinders.
  4. At no time shall smoking be permitted in any area where flammable gas cylinders are stored. Refer to University Policy AD32 for further information regarding the University's smoking policy.


NOTE: A poison gas is defined as one which rates a 3 or 4 in the health hazard section of an NFPA 704 diamond.

  1. Before using a poison gas, all label information and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) associated with the use of the particular poison gas shall be read. Users should be familiar with the hazards and health effects of the gas which they are using, and procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency. All plans and procedures involving poison gas usage shall be reviewed and approved by EHS prior to beginning use of the gas.

    If EHS determines that respiratory protection is required, respirator selection and training shall be done by EHS in accordance with the University’s Respiratory Protection Program.

  2. Poison gases should only be used in force-ventilated areas, preferably in hoods with forced ventilation, or outdoors.
  3. Poison gas cylinders should be of a size that will ensure the complete usage of the cylinder within a reasonable period of time.
  4. The transportation of any amount of compressed poison gas requires a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) as per PA Code Title 75, Chapter 16.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Director of Environmental Health and Safety.


Other policies should also be referenced, especially the following:

BS14 - Penn State Purchasing Card

SY39 - Hazardous Chemical Inventory Management

SY43 - Laboratory and Research Safety Plan

Most Recent Changes:

  • January 5, 2024 - Policy reviewed and content is still accurate as documented. Editorial change to update Policy Steward.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • November 18, 2016 - Editorial changes. Updated the link in the POISON GAS RESTRICTIONS section, to reflect revisions to the EHS website.

  • August 14, 2014 - Editorial changes made in the GENERAL REQUIREMENTS section, to clarify purchasing and delivery protocol at University Park and non-University Park locations, respectively.
  • June 18, 2014 - Policy has been updated to reflect format changes, the addition of REFERENCE, FURTHER INFORMATION and CROSS REFERENCE sections, and clarification/procedural changes in the GENERAL REQUIREMENTS, SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS and POISON GAS RESTRICTIONS sections. Added policy steward/ further information references, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • June 18, 2014 - Revision History added.
  • February 21, 1996 - Initial policy created, approved and published.

Date Approved: 

January 5, 2024

Date Published: 

October 29, 2021

Effective Date: 

October 29, 2021