Compressed Gases

July 29, 2016 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


Healthcare facilities use compressed gases for a variety of clinical and nonclinical purposes. These compressed gases or liquids can typically be delivered in one of two ways:

Healthcare facilities with an MGVS in place will still use compressed gases in cylinders and other containers. Clinical uses of compressed gases in cylinders include the following (Di Marco; IHS Engineering360):

EMS personnel, ambulances, and home healthcare providers use portable compressed oxygen cylinders. Nonmedical compressed gases such as EtO may be used for sterilization and compressed gases such as acetylene may be used for welding.

Carbonated beverage cylinders are another type of compressed gas cylinder that may be used in healthcare facilities. Additionally, compressed butane cylinders may be used in kitchen areas for warming food. Even gift shops may have small cylinders of helium for filling balloons. All must comply with federal and state regulations, fire codes, and industry standards.

What is a compressed gas? Gas is a state of matter in which the molecules are in constant motion and fill whatever space is available; unlike solids, gases do not have a defined shape, and unlike liquids, gases do not have a defined volume. As their name implies, compressed gases are gases that have been compressed by pressure into a smaller volume to fit a cylinder or other container. The pressure of gas in cylinders is described in pounds per square inch (psi), and compressed gas cylinders are commonly described as containers designed to withstand 40 psi or higher, with a circular cross-section (CGA P-1 and NFPA 55) (see Resource List); for comparison, maximum tire pressures for most cars are usually between 32 and 35 psi. Most compressed gases used in healthcare facilities are in cylinders that can withstand between 2,000 and 3,000 psi (General Air).

Three major groups of compressed gases are...

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