The Linde Group’s African Oxygen Limited (Afrox) has warned of gaseous hazards in confined spaces, offering detailed risk assessments and assessment reports to combat potentially dangerous, atmospheric situations.

Confined spaces, such as pipelines, columns, silos and cold boxes, are typically opened for maintenance, cleaning or inspection purposes with the company’s Application Development Manager of Cutting, Heating and Safety Hennie van Rhyn advising extreme caution for any oxy/fuel or welding application used in those constricted spaces.

He said, “Any fuel gas leak could create an explosive mixture with air in the confined space and any ignition or open flame will cause serious explosions. This is one area in the industry that really gets neglected as far as safety is concerned with using oxygen (O2), fuel gases and equipment in confined spaces.”

O2 deficiency, which could lead to loss of consciousness and even death, occurs at less than 19.5%, whereas O2 enrichment greater than 23% will accelerate combustion in the presence of an ignition.

As such, van Rhyn went on to state, “Afrox strongly recommends that only fuel gases with a density less than air should be used for any pre-heating, cutting, brazing or soldering applications in confined spaces, such as acetylene.”

Acetylene features a property of high value with a density 1.095 kg/m3, meaning it’s around 10% lighter than air and has approximately 30% less moisture content than other fuel gases. If any acetylene should inadvertently escape, it will rise and dissipate.

The company has recommended new technology that uses acetylene with air for pre-heating processes for safer operations with safety specialists at the industrial gas company available to issue risk assessment reports and assist customers with immediate recommendations.