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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
April 30, 2010
Letter # 20080123-8195
Whether empty compressed gas cylinders may be laid horizontally when stored.
Question (1): Does 29 CFR 1926.350(a)(9) prohibit laying empty compressed gas cylinders horizontally on the ground?
Answer (1): Title 29 CFR 1926.350(a)(9) requires employers to store all compressed gas cylinders (including empty ones) upright at all times. This paragraph provides:
Compressed gas cylinders shall be secured in an upright position at all times except, if necessary, for short periods of time while cylinders are actually being hoisted or carried.
The standard applies to all compressed gas cylinders, regardless of whether they are filled, partially filled, or empty. The standard only permits compressed gas cylinders to be horizontal for short durations when they are being hoisted or carried. Accordingly, laying empty compressed gas cylinders horizontally on the ground is a violation of Section 1926.350(a)(9).
Question (2): Does laying empty compressed gas cylinders horizontally on the ground constitute a de minimis violation of 1926.350(a)(9) because it does not create a hazard?
Answer (2): Laying empty compressed gas cylinders horizontally on the ground is not a de minimis violation of Section 1926.350(a)(9). De minimis conditions are those where an employer has implemented a measure different than one specified in an OSHA standard, that has no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. One of the criterions OSHA uses to establish a de minimis condition is when an employer complies with the intent of an OSHA standard, yet deviates from its particular requirements in a manner that has no direct or indirect impact on employee safety or health.
The requirements in Section 1926.350(a)(9) are designed to eliminate both the actual hazard associated with storing full or partially full compressed gas cylinders horizontally, as well as eliminating the hazard of storing a compressed gas cylinder horizontally under a mistaken belief that such cylinder is empty. A mistaken belief that a compressed gas cylinder is empty and therefore does not present a hazard may result from several reasons, including: (1) the cylinder does not have a regulator; (2) the gauge is inaccurate, or (3) the employer is unable to ascertain that the cylinder is not totally empty (i.e. it contains a small amount of compressed gas that is undetectable but still hazardous). For all of these reasons, storing empty compressed gas cylinders horizontally on the ground would have a direct impact on employee safety and health, and therefore would not constitute a de minimis violation of Section 1926.350(a)(9).
If you need further clarification on this subject, please contact us by fax at: 202-693-1689, U.S. Department of Labor, Directorate of Construction Office of Construction Standards and Guidance. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.
Richard Fairfax, Acting Director
Directorate of Construction