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Facts at your Fingertips: Low-Temperature Handling

By Department Editor: Scott Jenkins |

Processes involving extremely low temperatures present unique process design and safety challenges. This one-page reference outlines considerations for low-temperature operations. Direct contact Extremely low temperatures can rapidly freeze human tissue. Contact between a worker’s bare skin and a low-temperature vapor, liquid or solid can result in cryogenic burns. Contact is most likely when objects are being moved into or out of a low-temperature zone, such as a liquid-nitrogen-storage bath, during maintenance activities, or when low-temperature fluids are being transferred. If cryogenic fluids are involved, workers should wear long sleeves, long pants, thermally insulating gloves, and face and eye protection (a full face shield over safety glasses is advisable). Pants should not have cuffs, and gloves should be loose so they can be quickly removed. Even when low-temperature liquids are not handled directly, it is important to identify uninsulated pipes or vessels that contain them. If unprotected skin comes into contact with these surfaces, the skin may stick to them. Embrittlement Many materials embrittle at cold temperatures. This can be useful for size reduction of materials that would otherwise be too soft, oily or volatile…
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