I can appreciate your challenge, I have reviewed the safety practices of the laboratories at many of the National Labs, Universities, NIST, NREL and major company research laboratories for compressed gas safety over the last 10 years and have found a mixed bag. Wish I could give you a simple answer. As a minimum you should obtain NFPA 45 2015 edition: Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals
This recognizes the unique requirements of Research Laboratories. For example NFPA 45 is fairly liberal in the number and types of compressed gases allowed in the laboratory for use without the safety controls required by the Fire code for other users. A researcher can have multiple incompatible small cylinders within the same laboratory hood in use without the need to isolate them in separate ventilated cabinets. While NFPA 45 is not referenced by the International Fire Code it does contain specific requirements that I recommend to customers should be adopted as best practice.
The need for compressed safety training and guidance is significant. In the next 2 weeks I will be doing 10 days of Safety and/or Emergency Response training for all of the Massachusetts district HazMat teams, a major university, a national lab and 4 shifts at a major Semiconductor Fab.
We are also struggling with hydrogen safety guidance for our labs. We counted more than two dozen labs with hydrogen gas cylinders, utilized for many purposes from GC to hydrogen torches to a hydrogen-inert gas mixture for a glovebox atmosphere. We have focused in the past on separation of flammable and oxidizing gas cylinders, placement of cylinders relative to the operations underway, the use of proper tubing, and even twice have even found hydrogen and oxygen piped from one part of the lab above the ceiling tiles to the fume hood. But we know there is a lot more guidance we should be giving.
One problem in formulating the “best practices” is that hydrogen and other flammable gases have different purposes in different labs. Some set-ups may need flashback arrestors, and others leak detection. We are also struggling with step-down pressure gauges, and wondering if labs are selecting ones that inadvertently could allow for too much flow. What about connections to old equipment that may not have shut-down mechanisms, and may no longer be in business and have technical support? What about after hours operations run by graduate students?
The seminar would be very much welcome if it could shed light on hydrogen safety in academic processes.
Laboratory Safety Officer
Florida State University
I would really appreciate it if DivCHAS or AIHA did a webinar on hydrogen safety as it pertains to research laboratories. There have been three hydrogen explosions at universities since 2010 (U. Missouri, Stoney Brook U. and U. Hawai’i). Scientists and EHS staff need better training on hydrogen safety, risks to look out for, and how to do a hazard assessment for research involving hydrogen. When we ask researchers about their setup, they say, “I’ve been doing this for years. This is the same setup described in the literature/that my mentor uses.” Please.
Peter A. Reinhardt
Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety
135 College St., Suite 100
New Haven, CT 06510-2411
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