So You Want to Know Something about Hydrogen1

This introductory section provides a starting point for those who are not familiar with hydrogen. Our target audience is students, technicians, and young engineers who are just getting started in a job that entails working with or around hydrogen. This section presents basic information about hydrogen under two subsections --- Hydrogen Basics and Hydrogen Hazards. The Hydrogen Basics section highlights the properties and behavior of gaseous and liquid hydrogen. It also summarizes historical and current applications of hydrogen as well as common hydrogen storage systems and the controls used to safely maintain them. The Hazards subsection contains information about hydrogen leaks, flames, and explosions. This information is not intended to dissuade you from working with hydrogen, but to make you aware that constant vigilance is necessary when working with or around hydrogen. In fact, hydrogen is just as safe as gasoline or any other commonly used fuel, it's just different. If you understand the differences, you will understand how to work safely with hydrogen.

Each subsection presents a brief overview of the subject matter as a series of simple bullets enhanced with photos and graphics. Links are provided to more detailed information in other sections of the website. Relevant references (either actual PDF files or links to materials on the Internet) are provided in the right-hand column. An outline of the subject matter covered in this introductory section is provided below, along with a list of some good safety practices for working with hydrogen.

Hydrogen Basics

Hydrogen Hazards

Good Safety Practices for Working with Hydrogen

  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for the specific hazards of your job. Typically there are no specific PPE requirements for working with gaseous hydrogen, other than wearing safety glasses or goggles when working with a compressed gas. However, when working with liquid hydrogen, insulated gloves and protective shoes should be worn in addition to eye protection.
  • Anyone working with hydrogen should have been provided with some basic hydrogen safety training (see Safety Culture) and should be familiar with the basic properties of hydrogen (see Facility Design).
  • New hydrogen users should have clear guidance and instructions from their supervisor or mentor on the required training and approvals necessary before working with hydrogen. Ask for clarification of any unclear guidance, instructions, or responsibilities.
  • Regardless of what kind of project you are working on, you should use a graded approach to safety planning and risk assessment based on the quantities of hydrogen involved (see Safety Planning).
  • The first time you work with hydrogen, you should ask someone with hydrogen experience to assist you. You should never take chances or shortcuts.
  • Always plan for the worst-case scenario, but give some thought to the most probable scenario and be ready for that as well.

1This material is meant to supplement (not replace) the safety policies and practices of the organizations for which you may be working.