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CO2 Cylinder Tanks and the Art of Labeling 

10 May, 2024

Large C02 tank with the proper safety label applied.


Dealing with dangerous substances is a major concern for any workplace. Whether it's chemicals that can burn your skin or gases that can catch fire, keeping everyone safe should be a priority. Knowing what these materials are, where they're stored, and how to safely handle them is important. One common chemical that can cause injuries without safe handling is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is used by countless industries for different purposes. 

For example, it can be found in: 

  • The beverage industry to carbonate drinks and keep food cold during transportation 
  • The construction industry to remove paint from surfaces with carbon dioxide-based dry ice pellets 
  • The chemical industry to make methanol and urea 

These workplaces, and others, need to do their best to manage this chemical with care. That’s why many industries take advantage of CO2 cylinder tanks to store carbon dioxide. 

Similar to floor and pipe marking, a carbon dioxide tank needs proper labeling to ensure OSHA compliance. Clear and accurate labels inform workers of the risks of CO2 exposure and promote safe work environments.  

Dangers of Carbon Dioxide 

Believe it or not, carbon dioxide can be just as dangerous as a liquid or gas. Although carbon dioxide is not as deadly as other hazardous gases and chemicals, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) still classifies it as an asphyxiant hazard. This means that it becomes fatal once it reaches a certain concentration level.  

What CO2 level is dangerous?  

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that carbon dioxide becomes immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) at a concentration level of 40,000 parts per million (ppm). NIOSH’s recommended exposure limit - short-term exposure limit (REL-STEL) is set lower at 30,000ppm.  

Exposure to this level of CO2 can lead to: 

  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Headache and dizziness 
  • Fatigue and weakness 

The above symptoms can be avoided with clear labeling for CO2 cylinder tanks. When labels do not follow OSHA requirements, the risk of accidents and health problems arise through the improper handling of carbon dioxide tanks. 

Ensure OSHA Compliance for CO2 Cylinder Tanks 

For facilities to be OSHA compliant, they must refer to OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard. This standard is a set of rules and regulations OSHA put forth to ensure carbon dioxide cylinders and other chemical tanks are being labeled correctly. 

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires: 

  • Identify and assess the chemical hazards in the workplace. 
  • Label containers of hazardous chemicals with appropriate warning labels that display the hazards and provide necessary precautionary information. 
  • Keep safety data sheets (SDS) for each hazardous chemical, which provide detailed information about the chemical's properties, hazards, safe handling procedures, and emergency response measures. 
  • Train employees on the hazards of the chemicals they work with, as well as on safe handling, storage, and disposal practices. 
  • Provide employees with access to information about the hazardous chemicals they may be exposed to in their work environment, including SDS and labels. 
  • Establish procedures for communicating hazards to employees, such as during chemical spills or emergencies. 
  • Ensure that contractors and other non-employees are provided with necessary hazard information when working on-site. 

Industries can increase efficiency, awareness, and safety by meeting these OSHA labeling requirements with the right labeling solutions. In turn, the chances of an asphyxiant hazard forming decrease. 

Unlabeled CO2 Cylinder Tanks: A Recipe for Trouble 

An unlabeled carbon dioxide tank is like a recipe missing a key ingredient. Just as a crucial ingredient adds flavor to a dish, labeling ensures users understand the nature and risks of the CO2 tank's contents.  

Unlabeled C02 tanks.

Without proper labeling, you create multiple problems that can cause chaos and delay. Here are some issues that may happen if CO2 tanks are not labeled correctly.  


Someone may mistake CO2 tanks for other types of gas cylinders, leading to confusion and potentially dangerous situations. For example, someone might connect a CO2 cylinder tank to equipment meant for a different gas without realizing it. This could result in equipment malfunction, damage, or injury. 

Lack of Hazard Awareness 

The wrong labeling ensures that employees are not aware of carbon dioxide dangers, such as its ability to become an asphyxiation hazard in smaller spaces or its role as a cryogenic substance that can cause cold burns upon contact with skin or eyes. Workers may not be as cautious when handling or working near CO2 tanks, which can lead to further accidents and injuries. 

Improper Handling 

If the CO2 cylinder tank doesn’t have the right label and handling process, it may lead to leaks, spills, or incorrect storage. This can result in the release of CO2 into the area, which can create hazardous conditions, like an oxygen-limited environment. 

Emergency Response Challenges 

If your tanks are not effectively marked, it can cause deeper issues in an emergency. Emergency responders may have difficulty identifying what is in a tank and implementing the best responses.  

Regulatory Non-Compliance 

No one likes paying more money than planned, especially if it can be avoided. Failure to label a carbon dioxide tank that aligns with regulatory requirements can result in violations and potential penalties for employers. 

Although carbon dioxide may not be dangerous at first, it can still lead to potential hazards. It needs to be taken seriously and labeled with the most accurate information to ensure damages and injuries are reduced. 

Reducing Dangers, Improving Safety with Labeled CO2 Cylinder Tanks 

Accurate labels make all the difference to ensure workers handle a carbon dioxide tank with caution and care.  

OSHA-compliant labels need to convey important details, such as: 

  • Contact information of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party 
  • Product identifier 
  • Signal word 
  • Hazard statement(s) 
  • Precautionary statement(s) 
  • Pictogram(s) 

There are countless benefits involved when these details are included on a CO2 cylinder tank. 

Enhanced Safety 

Clear labeling informs employees about the hazards associated with CO2, such as asphyxiation and cold burns. The detailed label encourages workers to take precautions when handling or working near CO2 cylinders to reduce the risk of accidents, injuries, and potentially life-threatening situations. 

Prepared for Emergencies 

Emergency responders can quickly identify the contents of a carbon dioxide tank, assess the situation, and implement appropriate containment, evacuation, or mitigation measures to protect people and property. 

Regulatory Compliance 

Labeling CO2 cylinders aligned with regulatory standards ensures compliance with labeling requirements and industry best practices. Employers show their commitment to workplace safety while reducing the risk of violations and penalties by meeting label requirements. 

Efficient Operations 

Clear labeling helps streamline processes involving CO2 tanks, such as storage, handling, and inventory management. Employees can easily identify and locate CO2 tanks when needed. This promotes efficiency and productivity in places that rely on CO2. 

Documentation and Tracking 

Labels on CO2 tanks often include important information such as supplier details, container specifications, and expiration dates. This information helps documentation and tracking of CO2 inventory to improve proper storage, usage, and maintenance practices. 

Using the CO2 NFPA Diamond Sign 

Along with labeling carbon dioxide tanks, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has the NFPA 704 Warning Signage guidelines. These recommendations can be displayed throughout a room or facility with the NFPA 704 diamond sign. 

It does not matter if facilities are working with carbon dioxide or sulfuric acid, NFPA 704 diamond signs are worthwhile. These signs provide valuable information for people to understand the chemicals they will be near or working with as well as the level of danger that chemical poses.  

Breaking Down the CO2 NFPA Diamond 

The CO2 NFPA diamond is made up of 4 sections. Each section has a different color and sign or symbol in it. 

A NFPA regulatory diamond symbol.

The quadrants, and their meanings, are arranged as follows: 

  • Blue Section (Health Hazard): This section displays the seriousness of the health hazard based on a 0 – 4 ranking. The higher the number, the more severe the substance will have on your health. 
  • Red Section (Flammability Hazard): This section communicates the flammability or fire hazards of the substance. It also uses a 0 – 4 ranking to determine how flammable the chemical or gas is. 
  • Yellow Section (Instability): This section indicates the instability or reactivity hazards of the substance. It tells firefighters and emergency responders whether to evacuate the area, fight a fire from a protected location, approach a spill or fire with caution, or use standard firefighting procedures. Responders determine this based on a 0 – 4 ranking shown on the sign. 
  • White Section (Special Hazard): This section is used to communicate any special hazards connected to the substance, such as specific hazards related to water or other unique properties. It can also contain more symbols or words to give further information about the substance's hazards. 

All 4 portions of the CO2 NFPA diamond sign provide valuable information to properly identify the hazards people are working with and the dangers involved. 

Although these signs are not required by OSHA, there are still other OSHA requirements facilities must meet to ensure safe labeling, handling, and storage of CO2 cylinder tanks. 

DuraLabel Solutions for CO2 Cylinder Tanks 

Even though carbon dioxide is hazardous in certain situations, it still needs to be properly labeled to ensure safety. It can be mishandled and become a deadly asphyxiant hazard without labeling. 

Facilities can ensure the safety of their workers with proper hazard communication labels and signs. The DuraLabel Kodiak Max Industrial Sign and Label Print System can easily handle all your signage needs to guarantee OSHA compliance and a productive workplace.   

Get help crafting a system that will provide the safe communication you need. Call 1-888-326-9244 and one of our experts will guide you through the process.   

Know every detail of the HazCom requirements including hazard classification, detailed descriptions and user information with DuraLabel’s free HazCom Instant Action Guide. This guide helps evaluate your facility’s HazCom safety and ensures all chemical labels are up to date.


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Read Next: 

Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) and OSHA Signs 

NFPA 704