Mopping Up Sub-standard LPG Cylinders

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The Standards Organisation of Nigeria recently intercepted and mopped up sub-standard LPG cylinders in circulation. Jonathan Eze writes on the dangers of such products and the necessary precautions that can guarantee safety

Certain specific properties of compressed gases make them highly useful in various activities. These gases, however, can be dangerous if they are not handled in an appropriate manner.
Many of the odourless and colourless gases are highly toxic and flammable and this calls for utmost care while handling them.

LPG may leak as a gas or a liquid. If the liquid leaks, it will quickly evaporate and form a relatively large cloud of gas which will drop to the ground, as it is heavier than air. LPG vapours can run for long distances along the ground and can collect in drains or basements. When the gas meets a source of ignition it can burn or explode. Cylinders can explode if involved in a fire. LPG can also cause cold burns to the skin and it can act as an asphyxiant at high concentrations.

Recognising this danger and its attendant effects, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), carried out a public destruction exercise of over 749 substandard LPG cylinders in Katsina, Capital of Katsina State.

This comes even as the agency warned dealers of fake and substandard Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders in the country to desist from doing so. In fact, the Director General, SON, Osita Aboloma, described the illicit trade as life endangering, stressing that it poses great danger to lives and property in Nigeria.

The SON boss said the withdrawal of the cylinders from circulation during mop up exercises in Kaduna and Kano States, was in line with the SON Act No. 14 of 2015 which gives the organisation the powers to seize suspected substandard products for a period of 90 days in the first instance, for quality verification without recourse to judicial intervention.
Represented by the Regional Coordinator, North West-Zone, Mr. Dauda Yakubu, the DG disclosed that the cylinders have been subjected to laboratory tests and analysis to confirm the conformity, stressing that they failed critical safety parameters on construction, performance and marking.

“Many have expired, while some supposedly new ones were badly welded, thus posing great danger to lives and property,” he said.
On why the substandard cylinders were brought to Katsina for destruction, he noted that there was a mutual agreement with the owners of the Dana Steel Rolling Mill facilities to assist in that respect and recycle them for other uses to avoid environmental pollution.

The Regional Coordinator admonished those dealing in the LPG Gas Cylinders and accessories to abide strictly by the safety requirements in the relevant Nigeria Industrial Standards (NIS), given the potential danger that the substandard cylinders could pose to lives and property.
He stated that SON would give benefit of the doubt to the manufacturer, warning that they would face the full weight of the Law if found to continue in the unpatriotic act.

Yakubu then extended SON’s appreciation to the Dana Steel management for making their facility available for the destruction exercise and called on other stakeholders to collaborate with the agency in the bid to improve lives through standards and quality assurance.
The destruction exercise was witnessed by the SON State Coordinators from Katsina, Kano and Kaduna along with representatives of security agencies, the management team of Dana Steel Rolling Mill and representatives of media houses.

It will be recalled that the agency recently, intensified its efforts to remove uncertified LPG cylinders that find their way into the country through unapproved routes, noting that LPG cylinders not approved by the standards body are considered unsafe for both domestic and industrial use.

The SON Chief Executive explained that the move became necessary due to information gathered and its surveillance report revealing that some LPG cylinders could have been smuggled through illegal routes destroying lives and property while assuring the citizenry of the agency’s renewed vigour to stamp out the preponderance of fake and substandard goods in the country.

According to the SON boss, the standards body would stop at nothing in order to ensure the lives and property of Nigerians are safe, saying that SON under new SON Act 2015 would allow only authorised dealers are allowed to import cylinders.
Indeed, stakeholders have appealed to operators in the LPG sector to get proper certifications for storage tanks, warning that agency would invoke the provisions of the SON Act No. 14 of 2015 on any operator found to have circumvented the mandatory requirement of certifying LPG storage vessels.

Aboloma, disclosed that in a bid to address fire outbreaks caused by substandard gas cylinders, the agency acquired mobile testing equipment for the inspection, testing and certification of LPG storage tanks, pressure vessels and pipelines while urging operators in the LPG sector to voluntarily subscribe to the SON certification of their vessels in the overall interest of the nation’s economy and the safety of lives.

He added that due certification of LPG storage vessels, proper maintenance and handling of cylinders, safe and ethical practices are necessary steps to avoid explosions and gas accidents. While challenging SON officials to ensure that only certified LPG vessels and storage tanks are in operation across the country within the shortest possible time, adding that the certification of LPG storage vessels by authorized and competent bodies is an international practice and a mandatory requirement to assure the integrity, effectiveness and suitability of the vessels to store liquefied petroleum gas without failure.

He also disclosed that LPG vessels in Nigeria are certified to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Code, Division 1, Section VIII: 2015 by SON.
The certification, he stated is one of the requirements of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for the issuance of operating license to LPG Plant Operators. Brand new vessels are certified for five years, after which revalidation is carried out every three years, he said.
The SON DG also explained that another set of 32 engineers were trained in Lagos to ensure that the strategically located mobile testing equipment in Lagos (for the South West Zone), Enugu (for the South-east and South-south Zones) and Abuja for the Northern Zone can be put to effective use across the country.

He admitted that a joint committee of stakeholders in the LPG Sector was recently inaugurated by SON to work out modalities for a scheme to re-qualify LPG cylinders in the country.
The scheme, according the SON Chief Executive, would involve the withdrawal of substandard cylinders from circulation and ensure the production, importation, sale and use of only duly certified LPG cylinders in Nigeria.

Safety Precautions
Pressure receptacle: This is a generic term covering a number of types of pressure receptacle: tube, pressure drum, cryogenic receptacle, bundle of cylinders as well as cylinders themselves, plus the valve(s) fitted directly to the receptacle. However for the purpose of this guidance, the term “gas cylinder” shall be taken to mean all these various types of pressure receptacle.
Gas cylinders used in adverse or extreme conditions, such as for breathing apparatus, may require special precautions, although the advice is valid for all uses of gas cylinders.

As an employer or self-employed person, you have a duty to provide a safe workplace and safe work equipment. Designers, inspectors, manufacturers, suppliers, users and owners also have duties.
Employers have a further duty to consult any safety or employee representatives on health and safety matters. Where none are appointed, employers should consult the workforce directly.

Use of Gas Cylinders
Gas cylinders are a convenient way to transport and store gases under pressure. These gases are used for many different purposes including: chemical processes; soldering, welding and flame cutting; breathing (e.g. diving, emergency rescue); medical and laboratory uses; dispensing beverages; fuel for vehicles (e.g. fork-lift trucks); extinguishing fires; heating and cooking; water treatment.

The main hazards are: impact from the blast of a gas cylinder explosion or rapid release of compressed gas; impact from parts of gas cylinders or valves that fail, or any flying debris; contact with the released gas or fluid (such as chlorine); fire resulting from the escape of flammable gases or fluids (such as liquefied petroleum gas); impact from falling cylinders and manual handling injuries.

The main causes of accidents are: inadequate training and supervision; poor installation; poor examination and maintenance; faulty equipment and/or design (e.g. badly fitted valves and regulators); poor handling; poor storage; inadequately ventilated working conditions; incorrect filling procedures; hidden damage.

How to Reduce the Risks
All gas cylinders must be designed and manufactured to an approved standard to withstand everyday use and to prevent danger. They must be initially inspected before they are put into service to ensure they conform to the approved standard and be periodically examined at appropriate intervals to ensure that they remain safe while in service. To reduce the risks of failure you need to know, and act on, the following precautions.

Training
Anyone who examines, refurbishes, fills or uses a gas cylinder should be suitably trained and have the necessary skills to carry out their job safely. They should understand the risks associated with the gas cylinder and its contents.

In particular, new employees should receive training and be supervised closely; users should be able to carry out an external visual inspection of the gas cylinder, and any attachments (e.g. valves, flashback arresters, an regulators), to determine whether they are damaged. Visible indicators may include dents, bulges, evidence of fire damage (scorch marks) and severe grinding marks etc.; valves should only be removed by trained personnel using procedures which ensure that either the cylinder does not contain any pressure or that the valve is captured during the removal process.