Helium is a noble gas that is stored under high pressure in cylinders. It is chemically stable, colorless, odorless, nontoxic, and does not readily ignite or burn quickly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the storage of helium and other gases. Helium is not an extremely hazardous substance, according to OSHA, and is not subject to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding hazardous substances. The safe storage of helium tanks is subject to regulation U.S. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.101.
U.S. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.101 Summary
OSHA mandates that each employer is responsible for visually inspecting helium and other gas tanks for safety. Helium tank inspections should be carried out according to the procedures listed in the Compressed Gas Association pamphlets C-6-1968 and C-8-1962. Storage procedures are listed in the Compressed Gas Association Pamphlet P-1-1965. Compressed helium tanks, as well as tanks of other gases, must have pressure relief valves installed according to the Compressed Gas Association Pamphlets S-1.1-1963, 1965 addenda, and S-1.2-1963.
Store helium tanks upright at temperatures below 125 degrees F (52 degrees C). The storage area should be secure, ventilated, and able to protect the tanks from sunlight and the weather. Secure tanks with chain, ropes, or straps so they do not fall. Avoid blocking emergency exits and traffic areas. Do not store helium tanks near corrosive materials, such as salt, or materials that may catch fire. Store helium tanks only with other compatible substances.
Other Storage Procedures
Helium tanks that are not connected for use should retain their valve protection caps and valve outlet seals. Do not store tanks for a prolonged period. Keep full and empty tanks separated. Use the oldest tanks first.
Although helium is nontoxic and nonflammable, it can asphyxiate an individual by displacing oxygen in an enclosed area. Helium is lighter than air and will collect at high points in the ceiling. Monitor the oxygen level in the storage area and do not let it fall below 19.5 percent. Provide adequate ventilation at all times. Self-contained breathing apparatuses, rather than air-purifier masks, must be used by rescue personnel.
Annette Strauch has been a writer for more than 30 years. She has been a radio news journalist and announcer, movie reviewer for Family Movie Reviews Online, chiropractic assistant and medical writer. Strauch holds a Master of Arts in speech/broadcast journalism from Bob Jones University, where she also served on the faculty of the radio/TV department.