Use caution if you cannot remove a cylinder cap by hand.
The Health and Safety Office received an urgent phone call, reporting that a 60-pound carbon dioxide gas cylinder was venting inside a laboratory. According to lab personnel, the cylinder cap had not been removed from the time it was delivered by the campus vendor. When the employees attempted to use the cylinder, they found that they were unable to remove the cap by hand. They tried to loosen the cap by inserting a long screwdriver through the slats of the cap for leverage. In doing so, the main valve was opened and it began to release its contents. Unfortunately, the cap stayed in place. The lab personnel tried again, unsuccessfully, to loosen the cap, then left the area and notified the Health and Safety.
What Did We Learn from this Incident?
Never insert a tool into a cylinder cap in an attempt to open it. If you can't remove the cap by hand, call the vendor for assistance. If they are unavailable call your health and safety office. While CO2 is not a flammable or highly toxic gas, respiratory acidosis can occur from exposure to high concentrations. Death from asphyxiation could occur if the concentration and duration were sufficient. Regardless of the chemical hazards of a cylinder's contents, the cylinder, or its cap could become a missile under the right conditions. Never attempt to close a venting cylinder. Instead, contact the Health and Safety office immediately.