Safety Advisory Notice – August 2017: Medical Gas Cylinders Expiry Date

Dr Stephen Mannion from the South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital in Cork draws our attention to a situation where a hospital failed a gas supply safety check because the cylinders had passed their expiry dates. Please see below content of this email in full for your information.

‘Our hospital recently failed a gas supply safety check because all the oxygen, nitrous oxide and air cylinders on all anaesthesia machines were out of date although all were full. As our hospital has consultants from Cork University Hospital working daily on site, it seems not to be unique to our institution. Checking the expiry dates is not part of the AAGBI checklist and may explain this finding. Unfortunately all cylinders have only a 1 (oxygen) to 2 (N20) year expiry dates. I suspect most anaesthetists are not aware of this issue and are (rightly) more concerned with whether the cylinders are full or not. I am not sure if this is a “safety” issue but the regulations require that they are in date. To rectify the situation in our hospital, the Portering Department will change all OXYGEN cylinders the week before the NCHD changeover in July each year and anaesthesia staff have been made aware of the issue. In terms of having nitrous oxide and air on the back of anaesthesia machines; based on how little to never they are used and the fact that they are not essential in the case of main gas supply failure, a proposal could be made that all nitrous oxide and air cylinders are permanently removed from anaesthesia machines’.

Medical Gas Cylinders – February 2017

To improve identification of medical gas cylinders and bring them in line with European standards, the HPRA has approved changes to the colour coding of cylinders to reduce the risk of administering the wrong gas to the patient. In future, to distinguish medical gas cylinders from non-medical cylinders, the medical cylinder bodies will be white. The shoulder colours will not change, and these will identify the individual gases. Cylinders will also carry the name of the medical gas in large letters on the cylinder body to help identification.