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Oxygen Tank Regulator Fires

In 1999, NIOSH warned fire departments and other emergency care and health care employers and workers about an occupational risk from aluminum attachments or regulators that controls the flow of oxygen from pressurized oxygen tanks or cylinders often used by fire departments and emergency medical services, and in health care settings.

A number of factors contribute to the generation of a fire flash from these aluminum devices during equipment checks or routine use when the valve on the attached cylinder is opened, releasing a flow of oxygen to the regulator. NIOSH determined that a particle of aluminum from the oxygen cylinder entered the oxygen regulator when the cylinder valve was opened during an equipment check. The particle struck a filter component and ignited with the impact during the oxygen flow. In turn, a fire flash was triggered when aluminum in the regulator’s high-pressure section ignited; this is the part of the regulator that high-pressure oxygen enters from the cylinder. A similar hazard can be created from the impact of other types of particles in the oxygen flow, such as dirt or other contaminants.

Using a regulator constructed of bronze, brass, or other materials with comparable heat-resistant properties is a key safety step because these materials, unlike aluminum, are not likely to promote burning from particle ignition during oxygen flow.

NIOSH suggested that users consult with the manufacturer to determine if a regulator is made of aluminum.

For more information, go to the NIOSH Alert

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