In an effort to improve storage of free standing medical gas cylinders, The Joint Commission published new clarifications to its Environment of Care (EC) standards in its January 29th Joint Commission Online newsletter. It specifically addressed its requirements under EC.02.06.01, EP 1 and EC.02.03.01, EP 1, noting that, “Improper storage of medical gas cylinders poses a number of hazards to patients and staff. The Joint Commission requires compliance with National Fire Protection Association’s regulation NFPA 99-1999 section 4-188.8.131.52(b) which mandates requirements for storing nonflammable gas cylinders.”
The newsletter provided advice on segregating and emptying medical gas cylinders as well as on minimizing fire risk, clarifying that organizations can segregate full, partial, and empty gas cylinders using racks, color codes, and physical barriers, maintaining, “It’s critical that staff in a hurry don’t spend time choosing between full, partial and empty cylinders”, therefore opened cylinders must be kept separate from unopened ones. And the article further points out that NFPA 99-2005, Section 9.4.3 requires that the number of full cylinders stored in egress corridors to be limited to 300 cubic feet (12 cylinders) due to the increased risk of fire inherent with storing larger numbers of gas cylinders.
To further clarify, the article gives this definition to Empty Cylinders: Once a cylinder valve is opened, it is considered empty, even if gas remains in the cylinder. For storage purposes, any opened cylinders must be physically separated from full (unopened) cylinders. An organization can have a full rack, a partial rack, and an empty rack, as long as unopened cylinders are segregated from all opened ones.
The article also emphasizes NFPA requirements to secure free standing medical gas cylinders to prevent accidental overturns which could damage values, and that repairs should always be conducted by qualified staff.