Breathing Easy - All you need to know about O2 on board

11 September 2009 By Courtesy of MedAire

“In an emergency situation, oxygen is the first line of treatment,” says Ginger Bartos, nursing manager for yachting telemedicine provider MedAire. If a guest or crew member on board a yacht is showing signs of a cardiac situation, neurological issues, respiratory issues or trauma, it will help the patient breathe more easily while the crew consults a doctor to determine the next step.

Bartos cautions that oxygen should only be considered a short-term remedy, however. “Even though it seems benign, it is a medication and its long-term use should be managed by a medical professional,” she says.

While crew typically learn how to administer oxygen through a regulator during their STCW training, not everyone is aware of the proper way to store O2 cylinders onboard. An accelerant for combustible materials, oxygen needs to be handled correctly to avoid starting a fire. O2 cylinders will not burn on their own, but they can become a fire hazard when exposed to a heating source or any flammable substance.

MedAire provided these tips for storing O2 properly onboard:

Be sure to secure O2 cylinders in a cool, dry, well-ventilated storage area at least 20 feet (six meters) away from any combustible materials or any other spark or heat producing appliance. Don’t store them where any oil, grease or other flammable liquids, such as gasoline, can spill on or be used near them.

Never use oil or grease as a lubricant on valves or attachments of oxygen cylinders.

The cylinders are not designed for temperatures in excess of 130F (54C). A flame or electric arc should never be permitted to contact any part of a compressed gas cylinder.

Do not store oxygen cylinders near elevators, gangways, stairwells, or other places where they can be knocked down or damaged.

he storage area needs to be easily accessed by crew members because, as mentioned above, oxygen is one of the first medical interventions when there is an illness or injury.

Because of their shape, smooth surface and weight, cylinders are difficult to carry by hand unless they are protected by mobile containers designed for them.

It's very important not to drop or damage the oxygen cylinder when carrying it. An oxygen cylinder can be turned into a missile if fractured or damaged. Escaping gas can propel the cylinder with enough force to penetrate cinder block walls, not to mention the hull of the vessel.

It isn’t always apparent whether an oxygen cylinder is full, empty or somewhere in between. To prevent ballistic injury, all oxygen cylinders, even empty ones, should be should be handled as if they are full (all guns are “loaded”).

Always open oxygen cylinder valves slowly. Rapidly opening a valve on a compressed gas cylinder can cause dust particle to ignite, resulting in a fire. Use clean, oil- or grease-free hands when working with oxygen cylinders, especially when attaching the pressure regulator or connections.

While we are not pointing any fingers, remember that for oxygen to be on hand to help in an emergency, the cylinder needs to be kept full at all times....