Improper storage of medical gas cylinders poses a number of hazards to patients and staff. The National Fire Protection Association’s regulation NFPA 99-1999 section 4-188.8.131.52(b) mandates requirements for storing nonflammable gas cylinders. The Joint Commission requires compliance with the NFPA requirements under Environment of Care standards EC.02.06.01, EP 1 and EC.02.03.01, EP 1. This article provides some new clarifications to these requirements.
- Segregate cylinders: It’s critical that staff in a hurry don’t spend time choosing between full, partial and empty cylinders. The Joint Commission requires organizations to segregate full, partial and empty cylinders by physically separating and clearly labeling the cylinders. Organizations can do this by using separate racks, physical barriers, or color-coding the storage rack.
- Empty cylinders: Once a cylinder valve is opened, it is considered empty, even if gas remains in the cylinder. For storage purposes, any opened cylinders must be physically separated from full (unopened) cylinders. An organization can have a full rack, a partial rack, and an empty rack, as long as unopened cylinders are segregated from all opened ones.
- Minimize fire risk: Because a full cylinder with a malfunctioning valve can create an oxygen enriched environment which presents a potential fire risk, there is a limit to the number of medical gas cylinders that can be stored in egress corridors. NFPA 99-2005 Section 9.4.3 (see also CMS S&C-07-10) limits the number to 300 cubic feet (12 cylinders) of nonflammable medical gas.
In addition, to ensure medical gas safety, medical gas cylinders should always be secured, and repairs should be completed by qualified staff. For more information about Joint Commission requirements for freestanding medical gas cylinders and piped medical gas, see the December 2012 issue of Joint Commission Online. (Contact: George Mills, firstname.lastname@example.org)