Oxygen is an integral part of our lives; it is in the air that we breathe and cannot live without, and it is a useful tool in many applications on the homestead. Oxygen is not only useful to us, but it is also an extremely volatile substance in its concentrated or pure form. While oxygen itself is not flammable, it creates an environment where other substances can burn more easily.
This makes it highly dangerous to transport and store and requires that strict rules be followed to make sure safety protocols are followed at all times. One of the frequent questions related to oxygen tanks is whether they can be stored on their sides.
One may think that storing an oxygen cylinder on its side would be safe than storing it upright, and this would eliminate the possibility of the tank falling over.
It is possible to store your oxygen tank lying down if there is no possibility that it can roll around and bash into walls or other obstacles that could cause a spark, rupture the tank, or knock the valve off the top of the cylinder. The better storage option is to store them upright in a rack where they are secured to prevent them from falling over.
Air contains an oxygen component of around 21%, and even small increases in this level will produce an environment where fires can start more easily. Fires that start in an oxygen-enriched environment burn much hotter than usual and are very difficult to put out. This requires that oxygen tanks are stored in a prescribed manner to avoid accidents.
Can All Oxygen Tanks Be Stored On Their Side?
It is perfectly safe to store gas oxygen tanks on their side, but it is important to never place liquid oxygen tanks on their sides.
Liquid oxygen is a very different element to gaseous oxygen and substantially more dangerous. Liquid oxygen can spontaneously combust when it comes into contact with certain substances such as rubber or any petroleum-based compound such as grease or oil, and even certain metals and plastics.
For this reason, liquid oxygen tanks should never be laid down on their side due to the high possibility of leakage and ensuing fire.
Liquid oxygen is also at a very cold temperature, and should it come into contact with your skin, it can potentially result in severe burns that could be life-threatening should they cover a good portion of your body.
Liquid oxygen is an extremely dangerous substance and should not be handled or transported without the proper training or appropriate transport vehicle.
Oxygen tanks with pressurized oxygen gas are much safer to transport and can be stored on their side as long as certain precautions are adhered to in order to maintain safety.
How Should Oxygen Tanks Be Stored?
The storage of oxygen tanks is pretty much determined by their size and purpose. While the smaller oxygen tanks used for the treatment of medical conditions are smaller, some tanks for other purposes are big, heavy, and cumbersome.
Smaller oxygen tanks are often stored in a small rack or in a cart that has wheels, which makes them easier to push around should there be the need. Paramedics often carry oxygen tanks in a shoulder bag, sometimes called a holster, which allows the tanks to be portable to easily get them to where they are needed.
The shoulder bags should always have an open-top to prevent a build-up of oxygen-rich air near the valve of the tank.
Larger oxygen tanks should be stored standing upright in a rack where they can be securely strapped in to prevent them from falling over, or they can be stored lying down.
With medical oxygen, there is sometimes the temptation to store extra tanks under the bed. This is an unsafe practice and should not be used as a storage location. Leaking oxygen can build up under the bed and result in an explosion should it come into contact with a spark, even a small one caused by static electricity.
Storing them lying down is not ideal, though, since it increases the surface area of the tank that is in contact with the ground, which can promote rust developing on the tank. In the prone position, the tanks also have the potential to roll around, which increases the risk of puncture or valve damage significantly, both of which could be catastrophic!
Here are some recommended guidelines for storing oxygen tanks.
- Storing oxygen tanks upright reduces the amount of space they take up.
- Make sure the storage location is well ventilated.
- Never store oxygen tanks near a heat source such as a heater. The heat can damage the tanks or be a source for ignition if there is a leak.
- Do not store oxygen tanks in areas where there is a high potential of sparks, which could possibly ignite the oxygen in the event of a leak.
- Never store oxygen tanks and fuel gas tanks such as LP gas tanks in the same location. High concentrations of oxygen can instantly combust when coming into contact with petroleum-based products, which is what LP gas is.
How Should Oxygen Tanks Be Transported?
Transporting oxygen tanks brings a whole new set of rules to the table that needs to be followed to prevent any accidents.
Where possible, oxygen tanks should be transported in the open air on the back of a pickup truck in a rack and secured from moving or falling over. You can also transport oxygen tanks in your private vehicle as long as you take a few precautions.
- Do not carry oxygen tanks in the closed trunk of your car. The tanks can roll around and become damaged, or if a tank leaks, it can result in a build-up of oxygen-rich air in the trunk of the car, which could cause an explosion with the slightest spark.
- Place the oxygen tanks in the passenger compartment of the car, preferably lying down on the floor behind the front seats.
- Make sure the tanks cannot roll around.
- Protect the valves of the tanks from bashing together or on any part of the car.
- Roll the windows in the back down halfway so that if there is a leak, it can dissipate without causing a build-up of oxygen-rich air and to prevent a build-up of heat in the car.
The valve on an oxygen tank is the weakest point, and precautions should be taken to protect this part of the tank from impact. A valve that has received an impact can result in a leak of the oxygen from the tank or a catastrophic failure of the valve.
A catastrophic failure of the valve can result if a release of all the oxygen from the tank, increasing the risk of explosion, and the tank can be propelled like a missile due to the escape of the highly pressurized gas.
What Uses Are There For Oxygen On The Homestead?
Oxygen can have a number of uses on the homestead, which is why there may be the need to store these cylinders in or around your home.
Medical reasons are the first potential application that may require you to store these tanks. Another use for them is the combination of oxygen and acetylene, which produces a very hot flame and is used as an oxy-acetylene torch for cutting steel or for welding.
Interestingly enough, acetylene tanks should never be stored lying down on their sides, even though the oxygen tanks can be stored this way. For this reason, the pair of tanks is normally stored side by side in a specially built trolley.
It is possible to store oxygen tanks on their sides, but the preferred method is to store them upright, out of direct sunlight, and in a well-ventilated area. They should also be stored away from potential heat sources such as radiators and potential ignition sources such as open flames and sparks.
While oxygen itself is not flammable, it creates an environment that is conducive to very hot, out of control fires and makes it easier for other, flammable materials to ignite.