Does anyone know where the standard is relating to oxygen cylinder storage? We were told that there had to be outside ventilation with 16 cylinders?  Where's the rule on this?

Ask The Expert, April 13, 2005

The rule on oxygen cylinder storage is in NFPA 99, Healthcare Facilities, in particular Chapter 9, "Gas Equipment."
Basically, the storage of compressed gas shakes out into several categories based on the amount of storage:
* 0-300 cubic ft of compressed gas storage
* 301-3,000 cubic ft of storage
* 3,001-20,000 cubic ft of storage

If you have 300 cubic ft or less, you don't have to store the tanks in special enclosures. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 cubic ft of storage comes under the realm of bulk storage and there's a whole other set of standards for that.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, in considering the minimum storage guidelines, allows you to keep 12 E cylinders in a general patient care area without encountering restrictions; the cylinders in this scenario would be considered "in use." The JCAHO came up with 12 because E cylinders having a capacity of 25 cubic ft of compressed gas per cylinder, so 12 cylinders multiplied by 25 equals 300 cubic ft, which as noted earlier, is the limit if you want to avoid special tank enclosures.

Storage beyond 12 cylinders, and this is what your situation asks about, moves into the territory of more prescriptive guidance, including ventilation, sprinkler protection in the room, and some other fire protection components. So, in this case, the information you received is correct.

For most clients that I've worked with, the simplest solution (especially when you're so close to the line) is to come up with a strategy that results in no more than 12 cylinders for each location. For the record, you really can't argue the point that some of your tanks might be empty and thus not count against the total number of tanks. If you have storage capacity beyond 12 cylinders (say a rack with 24 slots), you'd be hard pressed to demonstrate that there would never be more than 12 full cylinders at any one time. My advice is get a 12-slot rack for your normal patient care areas and store larger amounts in appropriately protected spaces.

Ask the Expert features advice from Steven MacArthur, a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Marblehead, MA. If you have additional questions or require further information, please feel free to contact him at smacarthur@greeley.com.