While helium has many uses in the industrial world, most of us only use it for two things: joyously buoyant balloons and hilarious squeaky voices. Because helium is a gas, it's always stored in pressurized tanks so that it can be readily used for filling balloons. However, like all high-pressure gas tanks, these cylinders need to be properly stored to prevent accident or injury from the tank rupturing.
Storage Room Conditions
Store helium tanks in a dry, cool room. A dry atmosphere prevents rusting and other corrosion, which in turn prevents the cylinder from weakening and failing. Heat can cause these canisters to rupture, so the room should be kept cool at all times. Helium cylinders should also be stored away from flammable materials, sources of ignition and other heat sources. Keep helium cylinders away from high-traffic areas or doorways, to minimize the risk of disturbing the cylinders while they aren't in use.
Cylinder Storage Position
Always store helium cylinders in an upright position, carefully secured to the wall. Secure the cylinders at two points: No less than one foot from the shoulder of the cylinder for the upper restraint, no less than one foot from the floor for the lower restraint. Restraints should be made of a non-combustible material, ideally chain. Never restrain more than three cylinders with a single pair of chains and ensure they're restrained tightly enough that they won't move around, but loosely enough that the chains won't apply pressure to the cylinder. Cylinders should also always be capped when not in use.
Safe Transportation and Handling
Always use a hand truck or dolly to move a helium cylinder, and ensure that the cylinder is properly secured to the hand truck with a chain or strap. Never drag, roll or slide the cylinder and never lift it by the cap or the valve: all of these actions can damage the cylinder itself or the cap and valve respectively, increasing the chance of leaks and cylinder failure. Always secure the cylinder in an upright position while transporting it in a vehicle, in either an open-air cargo section or a well-ventilated one. Unload cylinders as soon as possible and never store them inside a vehicle, as the conditions are harder to control than in a temperature-controlled room.
Empty Tank Disposal or Recycling
Disposing of used cylinders depends somewhat on how the cylinder itself was procured. If the cylinder is a rental, call the rental company to pick it up or return it to them as soon as possible, with at least some positive pressure remaining in the cylinder. In the case of non-refillable cylinders or cylinders requiring disposal, contact your local solid waste management authority for information on disposal or recycling programs in your area. When delivering your used cylinders, exercise the same caution you use when transporting full ones.
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