Hydrogen Safety Awareness Guidance

The University has arrangements in place to deal with fire emergencies:

  • Evacuation procedures, exit routes and assembly areas for non-responding personnel
  • Procedures to account for personnel after evacuation is completed and to report the names/locations of staff who may still be inside the building
  • First aid provision
  • The means for reporting fires and other emergencies

To supplement this, University staff working with Hydrogen will need detailed instructions proportionate to the scale of the emergency:

  • Alarm system response – see notes below
  • Actions to be taken by personnel who oversee critical plant before evacuation
  • Actions to be taken by staff dealing with hydrogen leaks, spills, fires, and transportation emergencies
  • Location of emergency response equipment
  • Appropriate fire suppression response
  • Communications between emergency services/LU security/local personnel to ensure coordinated action - establishment of a command post with a predesignated line of authority
  • Specific medical treatment for burns and cryogenic injuries
  • Establishment of security
  • Possible media coverage
  • Salvage and restoration operations
  • Hazardous material inventories and locations

Alarm Systems

Warning systems (lights/sounds) should be installed to detect abnormal conditions, malfunctions, and incipient failures. Practice drills should occur periodically to ensure that employees are familiar with the alarms and know instinctively how to respond. The meanings of the various signals should be posted in all operational areas.

Action to be taken

  • Raise the alarm to evacuate the area – how?
  • Remove ignition sources –warn people not to smoke and stop any other activities in the area that are creating ignition risks. Do not operate electrical switches in the immediate area as, unless the equipment is designed for flammable atmospheres, sparks can be created by turning off the power. Power can be switched off remotely if necessary.
  • Other plant in the area may require shutting down for safety reasons before the area is evacuated.
  • Consider if other people in the area need to be informed – a building may be zoned for fire evacuation purposes and staff in other areas of the building may be unaware of the incident and may remain in the building – is this appropriate?
  • Piped in H2 supplies may be interlocked with alarm systems however manual shut down of the H2 may be necessary. If this is the case ensure that key staff are aware of the location of the valves and how to access them – including out of hours.

Cryogenic Spills

  • The tell tail sign of a loss of containment is clouds of condensed water vapour around the vessel at low level or a loud hissing noise. PPE is essential if attempting to touch the metal cylinder or other super-cooled surfaces.
  • Rope off the area around the spill and do not allow people or vehicles into the area.
  • Good ventilation to dissipate escaped gas
  • Be aware of the risk of asphyxiation.
  • First aid knowledge is essential – do nothing except protect the affected body part with a loose cover and get medical help. DO NOT:

Remove frozen gloves, shoes or clothing

Massage the affected body part

Expose the body part to a heater or fire

Use safety showers, eyewash or other sources of water

Apply ointments

  • Move anyone affected by lack of O2 to fresh air

Fire Fighting

  • In most cases members of staff are not encouraged to fight fires. The University Fire Officer runs courses in using fire extinguishers for staff members who may need to operate portable fire extinguishers. Identify staff who should be trained to use an extinguisher and the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to do so.
  • It is usually best to let a hydrogen fuelled fire burn itself out as this will avoid an explosive atmosphere being created from un-burnt gas.
  • If it is necessary to extinguish the flame in order to get to a place where the flow of hydrogen can be shut off, a dry powder extinguisher is recommended.
  • Never spray water into pressure relief valves – ice formation can make them inoperable
  • Do not attempt to move a burning gas cylinder
  • Water can be sprayed onto adjacent equipment to cool it

Emergency Equipment

The following items may be useful to responders:

  1. Full face shield, safety glasses, insulated or leather gloves, long sleeved shirts, and pants without cuffs Pant legs should be worn outside of boots.
  2. Personal oxygen monitor
  3. Means to detect a flame – at the simplest level a broom or rolled up newspaper will allow someone to move forward in a straight line; a thermal imaging camera will allow an area to be checked.
  4. Cordon, signs,
  5. Powder extinguisher
  6. First aid treatment kit
  7. SCBA if it is necessary to effect a rescue from an area with depleted O2
  8. ID to present to Fire Service personnel

A Communication Plan

  • Can everyone hear an audible alarm linked to gas sensors, pressure sensors etc. – are visual alarms needed?
  • Will everyone know how to respond to the local alarm?
  • If evacuation is needed how will this be achieved - will the fire alarm/evacuation alarm be activated to bring everyone out of the building – how will the alarm be activated?
  • How to inform Security about the incident?
  • How to contact emergency services – via security as fire engines must be guided to the building by a security vehicle?
  • Consider how to secure the area – communication to keep people away?
  • Consider communication with fire service staff – providing information about the scale of the problem and any actions already taken?
  • Consider communication with senior management- activating the major incident plan
  • Inform the University HS office - 222180