Q: At our hospital, we have differing opinions concerning the proper method to restrain compressed gas cylinders. Would you please provide us the code reference regarding the correct method to secure compressed gas cylinders? Some of us say the cylinders are permitted to be restrained in a group with a single chain, and others say they have to be individually secured. Which is correct?
A: The issue of securing compressed gas cylinders is widely misunderstood. This is because at one time the technical committee for NFPA 99 themselves were not sure what they wanted. In one edition they allowed a group chain around all the cylinders then in another edition they required individual racks or chains per cylinder. It appears they eventually got back to allowing a group chain in the 2005 edition, but for those of us who are stuck on the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code (LSC), the 1999 edition of NFPA 99 is the edition that we must follow. Section 4-188.8.131.52 of NFPA 99 (1999 edition) states “Provisions shall be made for racks or fastenings to protect cylinders from accidental damage or dislocation”. Also, section 4-184.108.40.206 states: “Cylinders in storage shall be secured and located to prevent them from falling or being knocked over”. None of these references mandates individual racks or chains for each cylinder, so the conclusion is a single chain that secures a group of cylinders is permitted, PROVIDED the chain is effective and prevents every cylinder from falling or being knocked over. Make sure the chain does not ‘loop’ too low to the floor where it is ineffective in preventing the cylinders from falling over.
Looking ahead to the 2012 edition of NFPA 99 (when it will be eventually adopted by the authorities), we find section 220.127.116.11 which has this requirement for cylinder storage: “Freestanding cylinders shall be properly chained or supported in a proper cylinder stand or cart.” Even though the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) have not adopted the 2012 editions of the Life Safety Code, or NFPA 99, it is clear that the new edition of NFPA 99 will not have any surprises involving compressed gas cylinder restraints.