Whether it’s a medical emergency, or a fire – having the ability to quickly identify the contents of a medical gas cylinder is essential.
Following a standardised colour coding system for medical gas cylinders is one of the easiest ways to achieve this – and there is a British Standard Colour Coding System (BS EN 1089-3  in place. However, following this code is not mandatory, and many cylinder owners and gas suppliers do not currently adhere to it.
At AMS Composite Cylinders, we believe that this code should be followed to reduce the risk of incorrectly identifying the contents of cylinders.
To that end, we were involved in the creation of a technical information sheet, as part of our work on Technical Sub Committee 7 – Medical Gases, for the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA).
You can read the TIS20 Medical gases. BCGA policy on colour coding. Revision 2: 2019 report in its entirety here.
Background – Cylinder Colours
There have been colour coding guidelines for medical gas cylinders for some time. Historically, the guidance in the UK was BS 1319C  Colours for the identification of the contents of medical gas cylinders. This has now been replaced by BS EN 1089 – 3  Transportable gas cylinders. Gas cylinder identification.
The guidelines specify the standard colours used to denote a range of common gases – from the medical industry and breathing use, to calibration gases.
While the BCGA has encouraged members to follow this standard, it is still voluntary. To address this, the BCGA has worked in conjunction with the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to create a proposal to address the issue.
The Proposal for New Colour Coding
The proposal is that all gas companies follow EN 1089-3  standards. It has been supported by The European Industrial Gas Association (EIGA) and has already been adopted into law by many EU Member States.
For medical gases, this means that the body of the cylinder should be painted white – with the type of gas identified by the colour of the shoulder of the cylinder. It also sets out the colour codes for valve guards, and the application of the colour.
The proposal also includes information about product labelling and lettering to improve identification.
A summary of the shoulder colours and guidelines can be found in the full document, here.
Moving to a Standardised System
With hundreds of thousands of cylinders in use across the UK and the EU, it is going to take some time before all the cylinders can be changed over.
The proposal sets out guidance for a gradual conversion programme running until 2025 – with cylinders being painted white when practical, without impacting on customer supply. This include specialist information for Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 cylinders.
After 2025, all new medical gas cylinders will feature white bodies.
Medical Oxygen Cylinders in White from AMS Composite Cylinders
AMS Composite Cylinders supplies state of the art, lightweight gas cylinders for a wide range of healthcare, homecare, breathing gas and medical gas applications. All our cylinders are available labelled and colour coded in line with BS EN 1089-3 .
We supply clients across the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, providing industry leading quality, reliable service and short lead times.
Producing cylinders to a wide range of recognised global standards, we hold accreditations in all major markets worldwide. We manufacture to ISO and EN standards (including ISO-11119-2, ISO 7666, ISO 11118 and EN12245) and to the requirements of UN PED/TPED, DOT (USA) and TC (Canada).