Spill Response Guide: Compressed Gas Leaks

Potential Hazards

  • Contents under pressure present mechanical and projectile hazards and may explode in heat or fire.
  • Contents may be flammable or combustible and may form explosive mixtures in air.
  • Contents may be asphyxiants, corrosive, flammable, poisonous, or pyrophoric.  Check MSDS or call the supplier for information.
  • Uncontrolled gas leaks can become an inhalation hazard.

Response Actions/Cleanup Methods

Compressed Gas Leak – Simple

A simple gas leak presents no or only minimal inhalation or fire hazard.

  • Be aware that gases can accumulate and displace oxygen in a space that is not well ventilated.  This is an asphyxiation hazard.
  • Remove ignition sources if gas is flammable.
  • Restrict access to the area.
  • Place cylinder in or next to a fume hood if possible.
  • Tighten fittings on cylinder.
  • Locate leak with soapy water (at below-freezing temperatures, use a 50% glycerin solution).
  • If cylinder is still leaking, contact the supplier for additional information and suggestions.
  • If a fume hood is not available and there is a direct route outdoors, a plastic bag may be placed over the slowly leaking valve and sealed with duct tape to hold it in place.  Then move to the outdoor location using an appropriate cylinder cart.
  • Notify your supervisor.

Note: Do not try to repair the leak if the leak is at the junction of the cylinder valve and the cylinder.  In this situation, contact the supplier and ask for appropriate response instructions.

Compressed Gas Leak – Major

A major gas leak presents a large or uncontrollable leak or fire hazard, involves an acutely toxic gas, and/or more than minimal personal risk.

  • Alert area occupants and have them evacuate the area.
  • Call 911.
  • Turn off ignition sources.
  • If possible, ventilate the affected area (only if it can be done safely and only if the leak is vented to the outside) prior to leaving the area.  Leave fume hoods running.
  • Provide information to emergency responders.
  • The manufacturer/supplier may need to be contacted for emergency repair information.

Additional Information on Preparedness for Gas Leaks

If your area is using a compressed gas, plans should be developed regarding how to handle a simple and major leak prior to using the gas.  Additional information on compressed gas safety is provided in the online HPO training course “Compressed Gas Safety”.

Before use, consult with the manufacturer or supplier of your compressed gas for additional safety procedures and recommended methods for response to leaking valves.