Travel Smarter: Cylinder Safety

If you're diving a lot this summer you might find yourself moving tanks to and from dive sites on a regular basis. Amid the work of dive planning and emergency preparations, it's easy to overlook the safety hazards that come with some of the most mundane pieces of equipment. The tanks we use to explore the underwater world are safe, but only if they're handled with appropriate care and precaution. Minimize your risks this summer, and know the hazards before you get in the water.

Lift with Your Knees
Back injuries, while rarely divers' most significant safety concerns, are the cause of many missed dives every year, and serious back injuries can cause long-term problems. Moving a single aluminum 80 cubic foot tank is relatively straightforward, but it's heavy enough to cause a pulled muscle or slipped disc if you lift incorrectly. If you must lift a tank not attached to a carry handle or buoyancy compensator device (BCD), focus on moving the weight with your legs and keeping a straight back throughout the lift. Even better, attach the tank to a BCD, lift it from a comfortable seated position, and then carry it to your destination on your back — you'll have two hands free to stabilize yourself or carry the rest of your gear.

Compressed-Air Concerns
The more you transport and use tanks, the more frequently you'll be exposed to the related hazards, and the more important it is to keep them in mind. These hazards are manageable but require a little extra thought when planning a dive. Keep your tanks serviced and cool, and handle them appropriately. Tanks require annual visual inspection and hydrostatic testing every five years, and tank valves have their own maintenance requirements. Make sure your equipment is serviced regularly to minimize your risk of failures both large and small and to confirm appropriate function of the valve or valves. Store your tanks in a cool dry area; if you're not going to dive with them for a few weeks, it's a good idea to store them with just a few hundred PSI in them — just enough to keep out moisture but not cause sustained load stress that could shorten tank life.

When you transport tanks to a dive site, pay close attention to the outside temperature and how long your tanks will be in your car. As tanks heat up and the gas inside attempts to expand, your likelihood of dealing with a burst disc failure will increase. A final important concern is gas embolism caused by inappropriate valve handling. When you pick up your tanks, always make sure the opening of the valve is facing away from your hand so that if your hand slips and the valve opens, you won't be able to accidentally inject high-pressure gas through your skin and cause a gas embolism.

Buckle Up
You wear a seatbelt in your car for good reason — so should your tank. A full scuba tank stores an immense amount of energy; if it ruptures as a result of a car accident, it can cause serious injuries or even death to people in or near the vehicle. Tanks can be restrained with simple tie downs, heavy equipment (such as weight belts or gear bags) or specially made vehicle-transport racks, but they should always be restrained in a way that prevents them from moving around the passenger compartment in an accident.

© Alert Diver — Q3 Summer 2018