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Safe handling of compressed gas cylinders

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The cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood visiting her Granny, only to find that the old lady had been replaced by a wolf, is being re-enacted up and down the country every day – even when it’s not pantomime season.

But it’s not so easy to spot, because neither little girl nor wolf are involved. Instead, thousands of innocent workers are unwittingly cast in the role of Red Riding Hood, with the part of the wolf taken by cylinders full of industrial gases.

The story is one of familiarity breeding contempt; of why being too trusting can end in disaster; of not fully understanding what’s around you; and of failure to treat a ‘hidden hazard’ with all the respect it deserves.

Cylinders full of industrial gases, even the inert ones, hold tremendous power. If one were to fall over and have its valve knocked off, the rush of escaping gas would turn the cylinder into a torpedo capable of blasting through a concrete wall. If the gas were flammable, and were to catch fire, it would do so with explosive force, ripping through buildings 100 metres away or more, and massively increasing the fire load – the amount of combustible material in a given area.

And that’s why as reported in the Worksop Guardian a number of residents of the Lincolnshire village of Blyton had to leave their homes recently when fire broke out in a nearby workshop containing acetylene cylinders.

Such cylinders are like unexploded bombs, as one American resident found out when he left one in his truck overnight without closing its valve properly. Opening the door in the morning caused enough of a spark to ignite the gas and air mixture, blowing the roof off the truck and scarring his face. But, treated with the same respect Little Red Riding Hood showed for the wolf, they can be controlled and serve the purpose they’re intended for. Indeed, we’ve been using acetylene in industrial processes for about 150 years.

And that’s also why you have a duty in law to consider the safe storage of acetylene and other explosive gases as part of your fire risk assessment. That makes sure you comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the DSEAR Safety Regulations (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002).

A guide to the safe handling of gas cylinders

1. Always turn off valves tight
2. Fit return arrestors to bagging (the pipes between tools and cylinders)
3. Store upright in proper racks
4. Chain them in place so they can’t fall or be knocked over
5. Transport them upright, and secured to the vehicle
6. Never transport them in a closed vehicle
7. Use dedicated cupboards (the ‘room next door’ is not really enough; remember what we said about the explosive force involved) Dedicated storage cabinets which are independently fire chamber tested to BS EN14470-1 to prove that, in a fire, the temperature inside the cabinet will stay below 50ºC for at least an hour and a half to allow sufficient time for safe evacuation and for the emergency services to attend.

The British Compressed Gases Association has some really useful guides and leaflets to download about the safe handling of gas cylinders.

Reasons for bolting down a safe

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There’s no secret about the fact that at Safety Storage Centre we pride ourselves on providing high security. In fact we live and breathe it, and part of that involves keeping an eye on security trends around the world – to help you make your home and business more secure.

The latest trend we’ve spotted is safe-stealing. And there’s hardly a week goes by when we don’t read about someone becoming a victim of crime not only because they’ve been robbed, but because audacious thieves have made off with a safe AS WELL as its contents.

Stealing a Safe

 

The most audacious theft – and there have been many – came to light when the owner of a safe was called by police to say his safe had been found 15 miles from where it should have been. What makes this theft particularly alarming was that the safe weighed 500kg, and had been, the last time he saw it, behind a locked door in a self-storage unit.

The self-storage facility had an electric fence around it. Can’t fault that. It had a monitored CCTV system. Can’t fault that either. There was a lock on the unit door. You’d expect that in a self-storage facility.

The chink in the armour was that the safe wasn’t bolted down. Remember, this safe weighed 500kg, and its contents would have made it weigh even more. But that would have been of little consequence to anyone with enough determination to get past an electric fence, CCTV and a locked door. The right kind of bolts used to fasten this safe to the ground would very probably have beaten the thieves, and the owner would still have had his property.

But here’s why you might be wasting your money by buying a safe: if a thief can pick it up and take it away, your valuables might as well not be in a safe at all, because that’s the last thing they’ll be – safe. Remember the cautionary tale of this victim involved a 500kg safe. Anything smaller will be easier to steal.

To make a safe really safe, bolt it down.

Are you about to break the law on explosives storage?

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When the calendar clicked over to October 1st, you could unwittingly have broken the law – and you could still be doing it.

That was the date on which new regulations came into force for storing explosives, replacing the Approved Code of Practice to the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005.

The new legislation is The Explosives Regulations 2014, and incorporates a number of changes. These are:

• Merging registrations into the licensing system

CabinetAllowing local authorities to issue licences of up to five years, aligning them with equivalent HSE/police-issued licences

• Extending licensing to address storage of ammonium nitrate blasting intermediate (ANBI)

• Exceptions for keeping desensitised explosives without a licence have been updated

• Tables of separation distances have been restructured to better allow for sites with more than one store. The tables have also been revised to cover quantities of explosives greater than 2,000kg

• A revised list of explosives that can be acquired or acquired and kept without an explosives certificate from the police.

• The repeal of the Fireworks Act 1951, as its remaining provisions have been superseded by the Pyrotechnic (Safety) Regulations 2010

More detailed guidance is in the documents L150 and L151 available from the Health and safety Executive. The former looks at safety provisions, the latter at security. It has been possible to download copies, but the HSE advises that those copies may have been subject to change before the new rules came into effect, and suggest it would be best to check.

Those affected by the new regulations particularly include employers, private individuals and other people making explosives, storing larger quantities of them, or storing explosives that present higher hazards.

Don’t get your fingers burned: Use and store chemicals safely

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The lunatic craze sweeping social media at the moment involves young people pouring flammable liquid onto themselves and setting it alight. I can’t believe I’ve just written that, but that seems to be what they’re getting a kick from. Not to mention second-degree burns and a stay in hospital.

What they’re doing in the name of ‘fun’ is based on the property of liquids to give off flammable vapour, which ignites when it comes into contact with a heat source. The misguided teenagers often use a cigarette lighter, but other sources of ignition will do just as well – and that means you could innocently suffer the same fate using some very familiar household chemicals in the wrong combination of circumstances.

Hazardous Substance Storage Cabinets

The lesson is that hazardous substance storage is an important consideration both in the home and at work. For example, air freshener sprayed in the presence of a naked flame such as a candle can cause the vapour to ignite. Standing beside a barbecue whilst wearing some kinds of spray-on sunscreen can ignite the vapour it gives off, burning the wearer.

What’s happening in all of these cases is that the vapour is being exposed to a heat source hotter than its flashpoint – the temperature at which its vapour will ignite. There doesn’t have to be a naked flame involved; a hot surface like a heating element, machinery and superheated air are all enough.

A liquid’s flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which it will give off enough vapour to burn at the surface of the liquid. With petrol, that can be under 5ºC. (Hard and fast rules don’t apply; the purity of the liquid in question can change the temperature). Flashpoints for different fuels vary widely, which is why our safe storage advice pages offer a table of temperatures. Remember, the higher the flashpoint temperature for any material, the less hazardous it is.

Why you should never relax about security when you travel

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I was once the victim of pickpockets – almost. Only the intervention of my wife, who had been standing a little way away, was able to stop the thieves in their tracks. She’d seen the situation developing. We were in busy Barcelona, and I was in a bustling shop, when three men, one with a partly-open umbrella, got a little too close. She shouted, and they moved away.

The incident came to mind when we were watching a stage show by Swedish ‘Pickpocket King’ Bob Arno, who makes his living as an entertainer. One piece of his advice that stuck in my mind (amongst many, I might add) was to carry a decoy wallet in an obvious pocket. It should contain, he said, an expired credit card and a few scraps of blank paper, so that if it were stolen nothing was lost because most of your valuables were stashed away safely in a more secure pocket.

A lot of Arno’s advice involves leaving valuables in a hotel safe, but it’s worth remembering that safes aren’t necessarily thief-proof. It’s not impossible to open one with a little technical effort and a small amount of equipment. Better to strip down what you take away to the barest minimum.

Before going on holiday, or on a business trip, we suggest running through this mental checklist.

SafeDo I really need all this jewellery? Probably not. Don’t expose it to risk by carrying it around the world.

Will my credit card be safe if I leave it in the room safe in my hotel? Not necessarily. The data on it could be read. Better to carry it with you in a secure pocket or a pouch, for preference inside your clothing, and as tight as possible. When my daughter spent spend a year backpacking, her papers were with her round the clock, inside her clothing. It took several weeks in the UK for the habit to wear off, so ingrained had it become – but she was never robbed.

What would I do if my valuables were stolen? Make a note of the numbers you’d need to alert banks and credit card companies as well as how to lock your mobile phone. Scan your passport and other ID documents, as well as flight tickets. List the numbers on your travellers’ cheques, if you’re using them. Email it all to yourself, then, if the worst comes to the worst, all that information is as close as the nearest place you can get on line. Also, keep your laptop back ups somewhere safe (It is all backed up regularly, isn’t it?). And finally, find out where the consulate is, and note its phone number. Depending on the circumstances, you may need their help.

And finally, a couple of thoughts about security in your hotel. Don’t keep the electronic room key in the little card wallet reception will invariable give it to you in. That’s more than likely to have the room number written on it. Lose them both, and an opportunist thief will know which room to ransack. If the electronic key has a
room number printed on it, complain and ask for one without, for the same reason.

How will you store your family history?

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If the families of the tens of thousands of young men who died in the horrors of WW1 could have known how the nation would have felt this month, 100 years after the start of the conflict, I wonder if they would have thought any differently about how to care for the mementoes left behind?

WW1 Medals In the intervening century, how many letters, diaries and personal effects have been lost because someone didn’t know how important they would be to their descendants and others trying to bridge the gap in time to imagine what life was like on that day in August 1914 when WW1 began, and the years that followed?

It’s a question that is impossible to answer today, but it begs another: what should we do now to store facets of our own lives that might interest future generations? How can we tell the stories and family histories to our own grandchildren’s children a further 100 years down the line?

The default answer would probably include the phrase ‘on the computer’ – but that’s arguably less durable at the beginning of the 21st century than the solutions available in the early 20th. How many of us remember floppy discs? Even CDs are getting past their sell-by date, and Windows XP is obsolete. Who knows what safety storage solutions will be available in 2114, making what we think of as state-of-the-art today look Victorian by comparison.

No, by far the best way is to commit today’s stories to paper, including as much detail as possible, to let future generations know what was important to you and your family – and store them properly. These stories form a social canvas, adding colour and texture to the hard facts of history, and giving future generations a much better picture of life now.

With the physical items, these can form a family archive, stored together in a suitable container resistant to fire and flood. Our family’s is in what we call the ‘black tin box’. It’s an old deed box which has been in the family for years, and contains all sorts of items with little or no monetary value, but intense sentimental attachment and interest. There is the mortgage agreement for my grandparents’ first house, bought as a new build just weeks before WW2 for less than £700; parents’ school reports, family jewellery, certificates, photographs; the list goes on.

History matters. The trouble is, we often don’t realise how much it matters until we don’t have it any more, by which time it’s too late. Take action now.

What’s to stop thieves stealing your safe?

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It might seem an odd question to ask, but could a determined thief steal your safe? If it’s not bolted down, then the answer is an undoubted ‘yes’, because small safes are relatively easy to carry, and once the thief has made good his escape, then he can work at breaking into the safe at his leisure. Underfloor safeAnd even if he’s not able to open it, you’ve still been deprived of its contents, which must have been valuable to warrant storing them in a safe. You might also find that allowing a thief to steal your safe makes your home contents insurance policy invalid. So what’s the answer? It’s really simple. Don’t put the safe in full view, and bolt it down securely. For a further level of security choosing a wall safe or, completely invisibly, underfloor safes might be a good alternative. Floor and wall-mounting models clearly require specialist installation, since they are designed for fitting within reinforced concrete. However, they do have security cash ratings of up to £100,000.

Here’s a quick guide to securing a safe

• choose an out-of-the-way location
• make sure there are neither pipes nor electrical wiring where the screws or bolts need to go
• select robust and sturdy fittings
• before you drill anything, make sure the safe is level. If it’s not, there could be a danger of fingers being trapped as the door closes on its own
• if you’re in any doubt, get someone in to do the job professionally.

Moving a safe ends with teenager’s death

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The tragic death of a teenage removal worker has highlighted just how important it is to have experts with the right equipment move very heavy objects like large safes.

The 19-year-old was crushed by a safe he and colleagues were attempting to move. They were working together to maneuver the safe up a ramp into the removal van when the ramp slipped, allowing the safe to fall. The other workers were able to get out of the way, but the teenager was trapped beneath the falling safe, and although he was taken to hospital, he died there a short while later.

SafeSome safes weigh more than 500kg, and are perfectly capable of causing severe crush injuries if they are not moved with care and the right equipment. They are best moved to their final location by specialists. Great care must be taken to get all the details right when planning the delivery of a safe even something as apparently inconsequential as two or three steps might change the way delivery is made. Other considerations are parking restrictions, restricted-weight bridges, gravel drives and limited turning circles too.

Taking pains to do a job correctly is the way to make sure it is done safely, with each one requiring its own risk assessment. After all, we all want everyone to go home as fit and as healthy as when they arrived at work.

Van vaults will defy the thief and protect your valuable tools

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We’ve all read the sticker on the rear door of white vans up and down the country: ‘No tools are stored in this vehicle overnight’ – but the amount of equipment in question means it’s as likely as not that the sticker isn’t telling the whole truth…

After a hard day at work, removing a great many valuable pieces of equipment, only to have to re-load them again the following morning, adds time and the unwelcome need for extra effort at both ends of the working day.

But the tools of so many trades in the 21st century are such that they can no longer be carried in a simple canvas hold all. Furthermore, they are expensive to buy and replace, and often represent the viability of the business. The solution is to invest in tool vaults to fit inside your van, allowing valuables to be locked away as safe as they would be in a building.

Everything in our range of effective and low-cost secure vehicle storageVan Vault products is made from the highest-quality materials. There are a number of options available to suit all sorts of applications. Many of them are available with free delivery, and can be with you in a matter of a few days.

How safe is your vital data when it’s in the cloud?

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Fireproof Data SafeThe current push to ‘cloud computing’ and storing vital personal and company data ‘in the cloud’ encourages us to ignore one simple but very important truth – the cloud has a physical location.

And because it has a physical location, the sophisticated IT arrangements to which you entrust company information and old wedding photographs is arguably at as much of a risk as whatever storage arrangements you might have on your own premises, if you’re thorough. The cyber-risk could be even greater, because it’s highly likely that as you read this, somewhere in the world a member of the hacking community is working to breach the security of whichever data centre holds your information.

As the amount of data held expands exponentially – its is forecast to at least triple in the next three years – not only will the prize for the potential hacker grow in perceived value, but the chances of some kind of IT ‘hiccup’ will also grow. Furthermore, a recent study has suggested that your cloud-stored data may not be immune from being seen by others using the same provider. However, this blog is intended to highlight not cyber-threat potential, but physical problems facing ever-larger data centres, and to suggest some advice as a result.

It’s not necessarily malicious attacks that we should consider. Employees, who are as human as the rest of us, make mistakes. Natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes can happen, power supplies can be interrupted, fluctuating temperatures (and IT can generate lots of heat) can cause problems.

Best then, as a business, to audit a data centre just as you would audit any other business service, or have a specialist do it for you. They would check all manner of things, no doubt based on the EU Code of Conduct for Best Practice in Data Centres, and looking for:

• ISO accreditations
• business continuity management to BS25999-2:2007
• the payment card industry’s PCI-DSS
• IL3 status for governmental systems
• power and temperature readings
• disaster recovery capability
• hardware efficiency
• thermal capacity
• airflow management
• physical security

All of which serves to highlight the level of risk faced by data centres, and by association, your data. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be using data centres for storage. However, we do need to be aware of any potential shortcomings, and to think of the sentiments of a man with no experience of data centres whatsoever; American inventor Benjamin Franklin. He said that distrust and caution were the parents of security. It’s the same thinking behind the phrase ‘belt and braces’ that we’re all familiar with.

And on that basis, perhaps you should be thinking of backing up business data and treasured family pictures and documents on your own secure storage device, and keeping it in a locked fireproof filing cabinet, as well as on the cloud? Software is readily available today that will do the backing up for you, quietly and in the background, throughout the time your computers are running. Large amounts of storage are found on stand-alone devices smaller than a paperback book, and therefore easily capable of being tucked into secure fireproof data safes or home safes. With two potential sources of recoverable data, there would be no need to worry about any loss of data, which would all be secure and to hand whatever the eventuality.

 

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