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Safety tips for handling oxygen cylinders

Cylinders are safe when used carefully, otherwise they're risky

Oxygen Tanks Can Explode

Oxygen cylinders are safe when handled carefully but can be extremely dangerous otherwise, according to an expert. Oxygen cylinders exploded Wednesday after the car they were in was rear-ended.

"People need to be very careful when they're handling cylinders," said Ed Woloszyn, branch manager at Airgas. "They're very dangerous. They are a bomb."

Woloszyn calls Wednesday's explosion a freak accident. His company, Airgas, didn't supply the cylinders that blew up, but he assisted the fire department the day of the explosion.

"The gas tank, I assume, caught fire, which then, the fire consumed the cylinders, which exploded," Woloszyn said.

All cylinders have a pressure release device. Normally it would've released the oxygen and avoided the explosion. But that's not what happened Wednesday.

"They got so hot, so quickly, at the lower end of the tank, that it didn't have a chance to release, to let the pressure release device do its job," Woloszyn said.

Taking certain precautions can help avoid an explosion. Woloszyn said you shouldn't carry multiple oxygen cylinders in a car.

"They only want to take what they absolutely need. They don't need to carry around extra cylinders with them," he said. "Really it should only be one cylinder that they're breathing out of at the time."

He said, if you're transporting the cylinders, keep them secured so they don't bounce around. If you must leave them in your car, keep the windows open. And don't smoke if you're using an oxygen tank.

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