Liquid Nitrogen Splash

Key Instruction Points

  • Consider shielding for operations involving vacuum or pressurization.

  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment.

  • Do not transfer liquefied gases from one tank to another the first time without supervision.

Some investigators had a frightening experience during a seemingly routine procedure. They wheeled a laboratory Dewar to a core room to refill it from a large liquid nitrogen tank. When they inserted the hose into the Dewar and opened the valve on the large tank, the hose whipped out of the Dewar, spraying them with liquid nitrogen. This happened late on a weekend night but they fortunately had the presence of mind to call Security who immediately escorted them to the nearby Emergency Room. And, although cryogenic liquids have a high potential for causing burns, they were not injured even though they were splashed in the face and not wearing any eye/face protection.

Some investigators had a frightening experience during a seemingly routine procedure. They wheeled a laboratory Dewar to a core room to refill it from a large liquid nitrogen tank. When they inserted the hose into the Dewar and opened the valve on the large tank, the hose whipped out of the Dewar, spraying them with liquid nitrogen. This happened late on a weekend night but they fortunately had the presence of mind to call Security who immediately escorted them to the nearby Emergency Room. And, although cryogenic liquids have a high potential for causing burns, they were not injured even though they were splashed in the face and not wearing any eye/face protection.  

How Did It Happen?

  • The valve was opened too far, too quickly, imparting a whip-like motion on the fill hose.

  • The hose was not secured when the valve was opened.

  • A new filter nozzle had been installed and the users may not have been familiar with its use. 

Whenever Handling Liquid Nitrogen and Other Cryogenics:

  • Wear a face shield, long pants and long sleeve lab coat.

  • Do not transfer liquefied gases from one tank to another the first time without supervision.

  • Use gloves that provide temperature protection and are loose enough to be easily tossed off in the event of an accident.

  • Store cryogenic liquids and compressed gasses only in well ventilated areas, not in cold rooms or other enclosed areas. In the event of an accidental release the rapid expansion of liquefied gases will displace oxygen, posing an asphyxiation hazard.

  • Liquid nitrogen that gets into a cryotube during storage may cause an explosion upon thawing. Use tubes specifically designed for cryogenic storage and place them in a heavy-walled container or behind a safety shield while thawing.