Can The Gas Cylinders In Office Chairs Really Explode?

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The horrifying story of an exploding office chair is almost an urban legend. 

Everyone seems to know a friend of a friend, an ex-colleague, or some kind of acquaintance who was injured or killed when they sat down on their regular office chair and it exploded underneath them. Supposedly, this kind of mishap is caused by the gas cylinders that office chairs have to make their heights adjustable.

But is this true? Can the gas cylinders in office chairs explode and hurt you?

Well, the bottom line is YES, the gas cylinders in an office chair just like yours can explode with the main reasons why this may happen being:

  1. Using regular air in the cylinder to cut costs
  2. Sourcing chairs from countries with lax safety standards
  3. Abusing the chair with continual heavy impacts

Still, while that is entirely possible, is it probable? Not really, no. You don’t have to walk into your office every morning fearing for your life as you take a seat.

Don’t worry! In this article, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about office chair safety. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Understanding Your Office Chair – We’ll explore how manufacturers build modern office chairs for both function and comfort, and why they use gas cylinders.
  • What Causes Gas Cylinders To Explode – Then, you’ll learn why and how the gas cylinders in office chairs explode, so that you can keep yourself safe!
  • Office Chair Buying Tips – Lastly, you’ll even find a few handy tips for choosing well-built office chairs that are safe to use so that you can enjoy your peace of mind.


Understanding your office chair


How is an office chair different from any other kind of chair? Well in simple terms, an office chair is designed to help you sit comfortably for long periods. In an office chair, you can sit for hours on end focusing on your work, without your body becoming stiff or hurting too much. Office chairs give you this comfort with a firm and cushioned base for you to sit on, and an ergonomic back for you to lean against. Many also have armrests for even more comfort.

Beyond that, higher-priced office chairs also offer additional features like headrests, adjustable backs, and of course, adjustable heights. And as we’ve found out with other gear reviews spending a little more on the right piece of kit for you can save a world of discomfort. 

Here’s where it gets fascinating. To offer you the ability to adjust your office chair’s height, manufacturers use one of three different mechanisms. Your office chair may use a hydraulic-pressured mechanism, a mechanical one, or even a gas-pressurized canister to maintain the chair’s height wherever you set it. 

These days, most office chairs use the gas-pressurized canister mechanism for its height-adjustment feature. To be sure, you can look under your chair to see what type of height-adjustment mechanism it uses.

As you can see from how manufacturers build office chairs, the only part that’s at risk of exploding is the gas cylinder itself. So now, let’s try to understand how that might happen.


What causes gas cylinders on office chairs to explode?


In a standard office chair gas cylinder, you’ll find that it consists of two parts. The top part is known as the gas spring, and it holds pressurised nitrogen gas and oil to lubricate the moving parts. This part of the cylinder contains the ‘actuator’, or the switch that allows you to adjust the chair’s height. On the other end of the cylinder is where the piston goes. That’s the part that moves your office chair up or down.

There are many reasons why nitrogen makes for an excellent pressurised gas. Firstly, nitrogen maintains a constant amount of pressure that doesn’t change much over time. Second, it also helps to prevent oxidation and rust. That’s why it makes for an ideal gas to fill the cylinders used in office chairs.

So if nitrogen is so great, what might cause the cylinders to expose?

Here are three key reasons this may happen:

  1. Using regular air to cut costs: Well, first and foremost, there might not even be any nitrogen in those cylinders in the first place! That’s right. Not all manufacturers follow the safety measures they’re supposed to. Some dishonest office chair companies may cut costs by pressurising their office chair cylinders with regular air instead of nitrogen. Remember: air contains oxygen, which is what causes rust to occur over time. In an older chair, the pressurised cylinder may rust to the point that there’s a leak, resulting in an explosion.
  2. No strict safety standards: In many parts of the world like Europe, North America, and some parts of Asia, governments enforce uncompromising safety and quality standards for gas cylinders. However, your office chair may have come from another country where there are no such standards. Sure, you might save a bit of money by purchasing office chairs from those suppliers, but you also increase the risks involved.
  3. Extensive abuse: Even if your office chair has the highest-quality gas cylinder installed onto it, it may still explode after a lot of abuse. A quick search on Youtube will show you that these chairs will explode dramatically if you drop a heavy weight onto them. The same may happen if someone was to hit or puncture the gas canister deliberately. Of course, the odds of someone deliberately sabotaging your chair this way is extremely low. Still, anyone who jumps up and down on an office chair with a gas cylinder increases the explosion risk significantly.

Office chair buying tips

So, how does someone like you minimise or eliminate the risk of an exploding gas cylinder on an office chair? You can start by being a well-informed buyer. The next time you’re shopping for a good office chair, put a little bit more thought into it before you make a final choice. Sure, you should consider an office chair that offers you loads of comfort, But here are a few other things you should consider:

  • Quality – The first thing to pay attention to is the overall quality of the office chair. If it comes from a reputable brand that follows strict quality and safety requirements, then you have very little need for concern. Read the label or brochure closely and don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson questions about the company that makes the chair.
  • Safety – Even if you see that an office chair is of the highest quality, be sure to look closer at the safety standards and features. Some manufacturers might be all style but no substance; they may have a beautiful looking chair but use inferior materials that wouldn’t pass a safety check.
  • Price – If the cost of the chair is too good to be true, it probably is. Some sellers might offer chairs at a reasonable discount, but if that discount is too steep, there might be a negative reason for it. So, be careful!
  • Height adjustment mechanism: Last but not least, there is one thing you can do to eliminate the risk of explosion. Look for a chair that doesn’t use a pressurised gas cylinder at all. That might be a challenge since gas cylinders are quite the standard these days. But it’s not impossible. If exploding chairs are a concern for you, then it’ll be worth the extra effort to find a chair without one!


Final thoughts

To end this article, it’s worth highlighting that the odds of a gas cylinder exploding are low. Still, you are right to have concerns about it. Thankfully, minimising or eliminating the risks of that happening is easy. All you have to do is be conscious when you’re choosing a new office chair. Pick one from a manufacturer that follows to the best industry standards, or choose one that doesn’t use a gas cylinder at all.

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