How to Store and Handle Cylinders and Drums Safely
Cylinders and drums are frequently used in industry to store compressed gases and toxic or flammable liquids. You might not think that the contents of a single drum or cylinder can cause harm but actually it can. This is why they need to be stored and handled safely and correctly at all times.
Where should you store them?
This will depend on the material you’re storing and how much of it you have. You’ll need to keep it separate from certain other materials, equipment, and busy buildings. If space is at such a premium that you can’t keep materials adequately separated, you can use measures like firewalls which will reduce the impact of any potential incidents. The storage area should be kept secure at all times.
Make sure there’s adequate ventilation
Ideally, flammable gases and liquids should be stored in the open air or in a very ventilated place to allow any vapours to escape properly. Flammable gases can only be stored in purpose built areas or buildings with firewalls and other measures to reduce the impact of explosions.
How compatible is the stored material with other materials?
Toxic, flammable, or very reactive materials should not be stored in close proximity to each other. You should complete a risk assessment that shows that the materials you are storing together are compatible.
The storage area
Drums and cylinders should not be stacked high if the contents are hazardous and they should be stored with their valves towards the top. Drums should not be filled or emptied in the area they’re being stored in. Have a robust process in place for any spills or leakages, and make sure all employees are aware of this.
Transporting cylinders and drums
Drums that contain flammable liquids can be transported on a pallet, but cylinders or drums that contain compressed or liquefied gases need to be transported carefully on cylinder trolleys or purpose-built attachments for forklift trucks. All employees that are involved in the movement and handling of drums and cylinders should receive adequate training.
Controlling spillages and leaks
Measures should be taken to ensure that any leaked materials or spillages are contained. Drainage sumps should be in place for potential liquid spillages, and for gas leaks, a purpose-designed indoor storage area should help reduce how quickly gases are released into the environment.
Keep flammable liquids and gases away from sources of ignition
Storage areas for these materials need to be classified as hazardous. So any equipment installed and activities carried out must not pose any risk of ignition.
Commonly used hazardous materials used in industry
Drums should be stacked no more than three high and ideally they should be stored on pallets or racking. There should be a minimum of four metres between stacks. There should be provision for drainage of spillages or leaks.
LPG (Liquefied petroleum gas) cylinders
Cylinders should ideally be stored in the open air on a concrete surface. LPG containers should be kept away from any flammable liquids, combustible, corrosive, oxidising materials, toxic materials or compressed gas cylinders. If the cylinders are being stored indoors, no more than 5000 kg should be stored in each storage area. Only five purpose-built storage areas are permitted in any one building.
Chlorine cylinders and drums
Most of these are stored indoors, so access doors should be robust and tightly sealed to contain any potential leak. These cylinders and drums must be stored away from heat sources, and chlorine gas detectors or alarms should be fitted in case of a leak.
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