Promoting safer use of compressed gases
Bespoke training courses are helping staff and postgraduate students in the School of Chemistry to safely use and handle compressed gas cylinders and regulators.
Dr Andrew Goddard and Dr Mark Blitz designed the course following requests from colleagues and after health and safety inspections of research and teaching laboratories identified a need for general training in the area.
“The use of compressed gases is widespread in the School of Chemistry, but people might not be completely aware that they can represent a significant hazard, or know how to operate the equipment properly and how to spot faults at an early stage,” said Dr Goddard.
“Although written protocols exist for the use of gas cylinders and regulators and external training courses are available for training – at significant cost – very little opportunity existed for hands-on training in the School itself. Our aim was to provide effective practical training on all aspects of using compressed gases, including the cylinder itself, delivery to the experiment, identifying the risks and knowledge needed when inspecting cylinders, regulators and other control equipment, and being fully aware of current legislation and guidelines,” continued Dr Blitz.
The colleagues, with some input from the Health and Safety Committee, developed a bespoke training session. This included cutting open an old regulator to demonstrate how it worked, showing how faulty regulators can be recognised, an information session and hands-on laboratory training. The initial course received excellent feedback, and this training is now standard for incoming researchers.
The contribution to improved health and safety was recognised when Drs Goddard and Blitz received a Beacon of Good Practice award in the Vice-Chancellor’s Health and Safety Awards.
“Both Dr Goddard and Dr Blitz have considerable experience of using compressed gases, and the problems that can occur,” said Head of School Professor Dwayne Heard, who nominated them for the award. “Their technical skills enable them to do unusual things, for example showing a cross-section of a regulator, to illustrate exactly how things work. The result is far superior to just reading about it in a manual. This course can now be offered whenever necessary, without additional resources.”
“The use of compressed gases represents a significant hazard and hands-on training of this type significantly raised awareness and mitigates risk of accidents,” continued Gary Tideswell, Director of Wellbeing, Safety and Health. Lee Dewhurst, Head of Health and Safety, said: “The judges were particularly impressed by the way health and safety planning and preparation were incorporated into this training. By enabling staff to make informed decisions about using compressed gas, they have proved that Health and Safety is not a barrier to innovative work.”