Oxygen is something we need to live but it can also be very dangerous. The Health and Safety Executive have released information for those working in welding, assisting people with breathing, hyperbaric chambers, steelworks, food preservation and packaging and with flame cutting processes. These are the main occupations where oxygen is present in equipment and can become dangerous. Employers have a legal responsibility to assess risks in the workplace and take reasonable precautions to ensure the protection of their staff and the public.
What are the dangers of oxygen?
Oxygen behaves in a different way to air, nitrogen and other inert gases around us. The air that we breathe contains around 21% oxygen and even a small increase of oxygen in the atmosphere, for example, up to 24% can cause dangerous situations to arise.
An increase in oxygen in the air makes it easier for a fire to ignite, for example. The resulting fire will burn hotter and more aggressively, making it virtually impossible to extinguish. Oxygen at high pressure is also highly reactive. It can react very violently with some common substances like oil or grease. Almost all substances will burn in pure oxygen, such as rubber, textiles and even metals. In a workplace, just one leaking valve in a confined space or badly ventilated location can cause oxygen levels to rise dangerously. That is why top-quality components are essential in industries that use oxygen. For a Valve Manufacturer you can trust, visit https://www.orseal.com/
What causes an oxygen incident?
The main cause of an oxygen related fire or explosion can be due to any of the following:
Oxygen enrichment of the atmosphere due to leaking equipment
Using materials which are not compatible with oxygen
Using oxygen in equipment not designed for supplying oxygen
Carless or wrong operation of oxygen equipment
What is oxygen enrichment?
This describes the process whereby oxygen levels increase in the air. It is impossible to see; smell or taste and people often don’t know there has been oxygen enrichment in their immediate surroundings. It can occur from badly maintained pipes, valves and hoses, poor connections within machinery, opening valves that shouldn’t be opened or not closing valves properly after use. It can also occur if too much oxygen is used during welding, flame cutting and other similar processes and where ventilation is inadequate.
Preventing oxygen enrichment
When working with oxygen, it’s important to:
Keep oxygen equipment in top condition
Take precautions and good care when using it
Ensure there is always good ventilation
Never use oxygen for the purposes of cooling air in a confined space
Never use oxygen for dusting work benches, clothing or machinery
Always ban smoking where oxygen is used in equipment as it can easily cause a serious fire or explosion
If you suspect an oxygen leak
Immediately turn off the oxygen supply
Extinguish any open flames or cigarettes
Find and repair the source of the leak
Oxygen may have contaminated clothing so it must be aired and ventilated
In the event of a fire, evacuation might be necessary