Nitrogen in its liquid form has a lot of purposes and is used in a wide number of industries.
If you work in pharmaceuticals, the food industry or other research labs, you may be accustomed to working with liquid nitrogen. It is typically used in food processing, fast-freezing, coolant, etc.
It is an extremely cold material and can vaporise to cause oxygen deficiency. To ensure safe handling, you must be aware of the safety hazards and observe many precautions.
Everything You Should Know About Precautionary Measures and Safe Handling
According to safety guidelines from the University of Queensland, cryogenic liquids can create significant risks for the handlers if not managed correctly. The risks increase when used in large-scale quantities in different industries.
Here are the precautions and safe handling measures you must follow:
- Avoid contact with the skin: Ensure that your face, eyes, arms and other body parts are all protected.
- Wear protective equipment: Protect your eyes with safety goggles or face shields. Cryo gloves are recommended for handling anything that has been in immediate contact with liquid nitrogen. Wear high-top shoes that provide maximum protection.
- Use proper containers: Use cryogenic containers specifically designed for rapid changes and extreme temperatures. Use only approved accessories to close the neck tube of dewars.
- Use proper transfer equipment: Use a phase separator to prevent splashes and spills during transfer. Use appropriately-sized dewars and containers.
- Do not overfill the containers: Filling above the bottom of the neck tube can cause the contents to overflow and spill.
- Avoid using hollow rods or tubes as dipsticks: Wooden or solid metal dipsticks are recommended. Do not use plastics that turn brittle at cryogenic temperatures as they may shatter fragile glass.
Sometimes accidents are unavoidable, and you may be exposed to the cryogenic liquid. If you start feeling dizzy, move to a well-ventilated area immediately.
If a co-worker loses consciousness and their breathing slows down, apply artificial respiration and call a doctor at once. It is important that you keep the exposed person warm and safe.
What are the Hazards of Nitrogen in its Liquid Form?
When handling something as dangerous as liquid nitrogen, it is crucial to be observant and cautious.
Some of the major safety hazards you need to look out for are:
- Extreme cold: Exposing your skin to the cold vapour of nitrogen in its liquid form can harm you. It can freeze your skin, tissues and eye fluid. Even brief exposure can cause frostbite, cold burns and permanent eye damage.
- Asphyxiation: It expands in volume when vaporised without giving off any colour or odour. This lowers the oxygen percentage to below 19.5%, causing oxygen deficiency. You may become unconscious, and death may also result in extreme cases.
- Oxygen enrichment: When you transfer liquid nitrogen, it can create an oxygen-enriched environment. This increases the flammability of clothes and other materials nearby.
- Pressure buildup and explosions: The containers’ lack of proper venting and pressure-relief devices can cause enormous pressure to build up and potentially explode.
Liquid nitrogen is an essential component in many sectors and industries. It is used for various processes and is irreplaceable in many ways.
Handling it with caution is crucial to help you avoid any unwanted accidents and fatalities. Keep these precautions and safe handling tips in mind so you can make the best out of the cryogenic liquid without harming yourself.