Oxygen gas has no smell, no taste and is colourless so it is difficult to detect.

Oxygen in itself does not burn but if it leaks and accumulates in a poorly ventilated area it "enriches" the atmosphere and a fire will burn more fiercely; may be almost impossible to put out; and things that would not normally burn easily, may catch fire. Therefore, smoking and naked flames should not be allowed near the cylinder. There is also added risk of explosion if an oxygen cylinder is exposed to excessive heat.

Oxygen can also react violently with oils, grease and many plastics and so under no circumstances should oils or grease be used to lubricate any part of the oxygen cylinder, valves or associated equipment. Therefore, when handling the oxygen cylinder and associated equipment, hands and clothes must be free from any oils or grease, including cosmetic products.

Cylinders must be handled with care and not knocked violently or allowed to fall.

Oxygen gas must only be taken by the person for whom it is prescribed.

The above information highlights just some of the risks associated with the use and storage of oxygen gas cylinders in the home.

There are many risks to consider with the use and storage of oxygen. It is vital that the provider undertakes a robust risk assessment and staff receive training and competency checking by an appropriate person, for example the home oxygen supplier to ensure any employee providing support in the home of a service user where there are any oxygen gas cylinders, are competent prior to delivering any such services. Risk assessments must include, risks, control measures, use and operating procedures of cylinders, leaks, storage, emergency procedures including in the event of a fire.

The home oxygen supplier should also give specific instructions on cylinder use, storage, valve operation and provide datasheets to help form a full risk assessment.

The provider may also need to notify the local fire service to request a further fire risk assessment of the premises by the fire service, especially in the case of persistent smokers in the home.

Risk assessments and supporting information must in all cases be shared with staff providing support to a service user before they provide service to anyone at home.

Further guidance

Oxygen use in the workplace: Fire and explosion hazards


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