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LPG warning – get cylinders checked regularly

25 August 2004

LPG warning – get cylinders checked regularly and never overfill

LPG filling stations must take care never to overfill gas cylinders, as there is a risk of overfilled bottles leaking and causing fires, the Department of Labour’s occupational safety and health service has warned.

Owners must also ensure they get their cylinders checked every 10 years so that they stay in good working order, says OSH Wellington-Kapiti Service Manager Rob Scriven.

“Almost every New Zealand home would have an LPG bottle around, either in the house in freestanding gas heaters, or outside with the barbecue. People probably don’t give a lot of thought to the safety of their LPG gas cylinders, but there are some real dangers if bottles are not filled correctly, or not well maintained,” Mr Scriven said.

Although most filling stations now used automated pumps to fill LPG cylinders, he said there were important steps that operators needed to carry out each time they filled a cylinder.

“A pre-fill inspection of the bottle is important, as this will show whether the bottle has been tested within the last 10 years and that there’s no corrosion. Operators should refuse to fill a bottle that hasn’t had its 10-yearly inspection.

“Calculating the weight of the cylinder and filling it with the right amount of gas is vital. Overfilled bottles can leak when opened, and can cause a fire. Finally, the bottle should be tested with soapy water for leaks both before and after filling, and the label on the bottle must be dated and signed by the person filling it.”

He said service station employees were required to be trained as approved operators before being allowed to fill LPG bottles. “As an extra precaution, gas bottle owners would do well to watch the operator to ensure they check the condition of the bottle and test for leaks.”

The dangers of overfilling were highlighted after OSH investigated an incident in Levin last October, when a woman’s hair was singed from flames caused by an overfull gas bottle. The woman had taken a small LPG bottle to the Mobil Pegasus Station in Levin for filling, and had then attached it to her barbecue. When she lit the barbecue, flames came out of the cylinder and her hair was singed as she tried to turn off the valve.

Tests showed the cylinder was overfilled by 770g, and that information on the bottle to help calculate the correct fill weight was illegible because of rust and flaking paint.

OSH prosecuted the service station employee, Ross Smaill, for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the woman’s safety, and he was fined $400 plus court costs in the Levin District Court today. In sentencing, Judge Dawson reminded those working in the industry that the public relied on them to fill cylinders safely and in accordance with regulations. Judge Dawson said the responsibility for safe filling rested with the person trained to do the job. “If they can’t do the job properly, then they should talk to their employer about further training or refuse to fill LPG cylinders until such time that they can do it competently.”

ENDS

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