How to Use an Oxygen Tank Valve

To see the safest way to open an oxygen tank valve, watch this demonstration from Brian Farbelow, Registered Respiratory Therapist and Sr. Director of VITAS Home Medical Equipment.

Open the Valve Slowly and Completely

Every oxygen tank or cylinder has a valve that controls the amount of oxygen released. Always open that valve slowly and completely.

Here is why: Oxygen molecules are compressed under extreme pressure inside the tank. When the valve is opened quickly or only partially (or if the valve is broken off in a fall, drop or collision), the molecules inside are set in motion, bumping up against one another in the regulator and the valve. They create enough heat to ignite anything they come in contact with. Even particles of dust in the valve can ignite an oxygen-enriched fire.

By opening the valve slowly and completely, you ensure that the oxygen is released safely.

Never Use Lubricant or Oil

In addition, never use any lubricant or oil on oxygen cylinders or regulators. Oxygen lowers the ignition point of oil and hydrocarbons to room temperature. That means that when oxygen comes in contact with the lubricant, the mixture will burst into flames, igniting any nearby materials.

Through our Home Medical Equipment (HME) teams, VITAS provides home medical equipment, including oxygen tanks, to our patients as part of the Medicare hospice benefit. Our dedicated team members also provide training and support on using the equipment.

Get our oxygen safety guide for hospice patients.