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Dispense gas is very useful to pubs and restaurants, but needs to be handled with care.

Dispense Gas Safety

What is dispense gas?

Inert gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen are used regularly within the hospitality industry. These gases, known collectively as ‘dispense gas’, are used to carbonate drinks so that they become fizzy. Alcohol-based drinks, such as beer and cider, are often carbonated using a mixture of both carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas, as this helps to create a smooth, silky taste and feel.

Each gas mix is contained in a pressurised cylinder, and installed with pipework and controlling and mixing equipment.


The risks with dispense gas

If dispense gas leaks, it can pose a serious threat to human health.

Breathing in dispense gas in sufficient quantities can lead to headaches and dizziness, and a high concentration can result in a lack of oxygen and cause impaired judgement, unconsciousness and even death.

In 2010 a man died from a leak of CO2 in the cellar of a Birregurra hotel, which highlighted the need for appropriate controls and training to ensure the safety of personnel in the workplace.


Factors that affect the risk

There are several factors that can affect the level of risk associated with the use of dispense gas. This includes the total number and size of cylinders stored, piped or in use in any room, the storage facility and the level of ventilation. In order to minimise the risk, a series of steps can be taken to ensure the safety of anyone working in proximity of dispense gas.


1. Size of the gas cylinder

Keep the cylinder size to a reasonable minimum.

2. Total number of cylinders

Keep stocks as low as possible. Secure cylinders in an upright position using an approved bracket/chain.

3. Storage area

Store gas cylinders in a dry, safe place on a flat surface away from direct sunlight. If this is not reasonably practical, store inside, keep stocks to a minimum and ensure the room has adequate ventilation. Do not store in boiler rooms or other rooms above 25°C.

4. Ventilation

If below ground level, mechanical extract ventilation should be used, with fans positioned at low level. Natural ventilation, preferably positioned at low level in ground floor storage rooms, should provide an adequate cross flow of fresh air.

5. Maintenance

Ensure the system is installed and maintained by a competent contractor and they inspect it annually. The dispense gas pipework and manifold system should be inspected visually once a week by a competent person. Any associated equipment such as ventilation fans or a gas monitoring system should also be inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Instruction and Training

All personnel handling or using gas cylinders are required to have had adequate training and be able to carry out an external visual inspection of the gas cylinder and any attachments to determine whether they are damaged. The training should include information on working in a confined space and the actions to be taken in the event of a gas leakage or any likely incident involving gas cylinders. Emergency arrangements need to be put in place, including a system of raising an alarm and effecting evacuation. Gas cylinders must be clearly marked to show what they contain and the hazards associated with their contents, and any hazard/gas warning signs displayed prominently

7. Detection

Properly fitted and maintained CO2 detectors should be installed to raise the alarm when personnel may be exposed to potentially dangerous levels of CO2.

Analox’s  dispense gas monitor, the Ax60+, is specifically designed for the hospitality and beverage industry, such as fast food restaurants and pub cellars to continuously monitor CO2 in areas vulnerable to potential exposure. The system incorporates visual strobes and audible alarms that are set to immediately trigger if the Ax60+ detects a level of CO2 beyond pre-defined limits, thereby alerting personnel to any leak of CO2 gas.


More information about working safely with dispense gas

Working safely with gas in pub cellars – Health and Safety Authority

Safe use of dispense equipment in retail and other non-licensed premises – British Soft Drinks Association


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