Dry ice is a substance used in quite a variety of industries, largely because of its excellent cooling properties. Put simply, dry ice is compressed and frozen carbon dioxide, which forms a solid product much colder than ordinary water ice. It's these super-low temperatures that make dry ice so useful.
But it's these low temperatures that are largely responsible for making it a hazardous substance. If you're preparing dry ice for packing and transportation, it's important to know how to do it safely to protect yourself and others. Here are the main things you should know when dealing with this cold material.
The extremely low temperature of dry ice means it can quickly cause frostbite and other injuries if it touches bare skin. The most important protective measure you should take is to avoid touching it with bare hands.
Make sure you use gloves that are specifically designed for use when handling materials of low temperatures, and check these gloves regularly for any damage. You should also wear long sleeves to protect your arms and goggles in case any splashes or small fragments of dry ice fly towards your eyes.
Although the main risk with dry ice is the cold, there's also the possibility of asphyxiation as it sublimates. This means it turns back into a gas as it warms up or when water comes into contact with it.
The best way to avoid this danger is to maintain the dry ice's solid state and avoid handling large quantities at once. It's important to work in a cold environment, leave the ice in its container with the lid closed as much as possible, and prevent it coming into contact with water or other liquids. You should also ensure your work area is properly ventilated.
Dry ice should be stored in a well-insulated container so it can maintain its low temperature. You can buy containers that are made just for storing dry ice, and you should use one of these instead of any sort of substitute.
Make sure containers are damage-free and properly closed before sealing them up. They should also be clearly labelled with dry ice warnings so that the recipient will know what's inside before opening it.
When dry ice is transported, it should be treated like any other delicate, potentially dangerous material. Drivers should be briefed on the contents and provided with information on what to do in an emergency.
The container should be kept in a cargo area separate from the driver's cab, as sublimation en route can be hazardous. You can learn more about how to safely transport dry ice by taking a dangerous goods course.