Six life-saving lessons highlighted by Gas Safety Week

Does one of your gas appliances burn with a yellow flame like this one? Then it could be putting your life at risk. Safety Storage Centre highlights the risks posed by gas in the home and the workplace, and highlights the work of Gas Safety Week 2016 to keep everyone safe.

Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Week have lots in common – and one vital difference. Neither smells, neither tastes of anything, and it’s impossible to tell either is there unless you’re aware of them.

But the big difference is that whilst Carbon Monoxide could kill you, Gas Safety Week which runs from 19th September to 25th September exists to keep you alive.

It’s the one week of the year that seeks to highlight what should be in our minds the whole year through – that Carbon Monoxide can kill, and will do so without mercy if given half a chance. How deadly is it? Industry knows it as the Silent Killer. That just about sums it up.

So how do you know if you’re suffering from the early stages of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Weakness
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Dizziness
  5. Dull headache
  6. You find to hard to breathe

They will happen if you breathe in small amounts; breathe in a lot, and the gas will replace oxygen in your bloodstream, and that’s when death could occur.

It’s facts like these that Gas Safety Week was created to highlight, for businesses, home owners and landlords.

Now in its sixth year, Gas Safety Week 2016 was launched in Parliament by Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield. He said the annual campaign had already made some changes for the better, but added that in spite of the progress, there was still some way to go.

He praised charities like the Dominic Rodgers Trust, which goes into schools to educate children about the issues.

Gas Safety Week

Jonathan Samuel is chief executive of Gas Safe Register, the organisation behind the annual campaign. He said his organisation’s role was to get the conversation started, and to encourage people to see the benefits of getting involved.

“It’s about ensuring people understand gas issues, and how to keep themselves safe,” he said.

We’d echo that objective, and offer these six top tips to keep safe from Carbon Monoxide.

Our six top prevention tips

  1. Have gas appliances checked annually. Gas Safe inspectors have found unsafe gas appliances in one in six of the 142,000 homes they visited in a year – so that’s a lot of potential for deaths…
  2. Look out for the flame on any gas burning appliances you may have. The flames should be blue with ‘sharp edges’. A yellow and ‘floppy’ flame is dangerous, and needs the attention of a professional. That’s because one of the reasons for a yellow flame is all of the gas isn’t being burnt. If it isn’t, Carbon Monoxide could be building up. Get an expert in to check.
  3. Don’t have ‘mates’ work on any gas appliances you may have at home or at work. The only people qualified to work on them are on a Gas Safe Register. and will have a card to prove it. Ask to see it.
  4. Get a carbon monoxide detector. The modern equivalent of the coal miners’ canary, carbon monoxide detectors like these, combined with a smoke detector, will tell you when there’s life threatening gas around before the gas has a chance to do you harm
  5. Check the Carbon Monoxide detector’s batteries regularly. If there’s no power, there’s no warning.
  6. Never take a barbeque indoors, including into a tent or caravan. Carbon Monoxide could cook your goose before the burgers are done.

Picture: Fedor Kondratenko | Dreamstime.com

Understand the other words that mean ‘bomb’ in the workplace

Safe storage of gas cylinders in workplaces is vital for the safety of people and processes – because, if mistreated, compressed gas contains enough energy to tear open a steel cylinder as easily as if it were made of aluminium foil. And the problems get worse when flammable gases are involved…

We all know what a bomb looks like in cartoons, don’t we? – A black sphere with a burning fuse sticking out of it. To remove any doubt the word ‘bomb’ is usually written on it in bold capital letters.

But the giveaway word isn’t forced to be ‘bomb’, any more than the tell-tale shape is always that distinctive black sphere. In real life the bomb could just as easily be a cylinder of blue, red, black, or a number of other colours, and the giveaway word could be ‘propane’, ‘butane’…or simply ‘gas’.

And that’s our point in Gas Safety Week, which this year runs for the week of September 14-20. Its main function is to highlight the need for safety around gas and gas appliances, but we’d say it’s also important to think about gas bottle storage relating to portable gases, relied on so heavily for domestic and leisure purposes.

Gas bottles are latent bombs because of the pressure of the gas within. So great is the force that it can tear the steel walls like paper. The devastation that can be caused by one exploding, even without an associated fire, can be seen here in a video (though we offer no comment on the manual handling or securing of the cylinders involved.)

As always in workplace safety, the first thing to get right is mind set; the understanding of the risks involved, and the appropriate behaviour required as a result. Gas bottles should be treated as if they were unexploded bombs, because careless handling of them can have the same effect, as video compilations on the internet prove all too clearly.

So how should gas bottles be stored?

Bomb• Always upright – in storage, in transit, and in use
• In well ventilated areas – preferably outdoors and away from doors, windows and drains. This is because flammable gas like butane and propane are heavier than air, and will flow and pool at ground level
• Away from heat or ignition sources – heat makes the gas expand, increasing pressure inside the bottle
• Controlled in gas bottle cages or purpose-designed gas cylinder cabinets (the latter are fire resistant, offering up to 90 minutes’ protection)
• The right distance from boundaries and buildings
• Fit plastic caps on stored cylinders, even when they are empty
• With a regularly-serviced 9kg dry powder fire extinguisher in the area

Things to avoid in compressed gas cylinder storage

• Never store or use them below ground – remember that gas is heavier than air
• Don’t keep them where gas is prohibited
• Don’t store them near anything that could corrode the bottle, making it weaker
• If no alternative to inside storage is available, the maximum weight of LPG cylinders that may be stored in a shop of office is 70kg, but this is reduced to 15kg where residential property is involved.

Gas cylinder cabinets are made of durable and protected steel, whilst lockable gas cylinder storage cages are made from galvanised and welded mesh, offering long life and performance in all kinds of weather.

In thinking about the weather, it is also important to remember that although the right place for storage of compressed gas cylinders is outdoors, even dampness in the atmosphere has a corrosive effect over time. Paint finishes can be damaged when cylinders are removed, allowing corrosion to set in on the steel beneath.

If a gas bottle has been kept outside for a long time, even appropriate storage won’t protect it from that – but it’s worth asking if you actually need the cylinder and the gas it contains. If the answer is ‘no’, then the best course of action would be to remove it completely.

For more information about the safe storage of gas cylinders visit our advice page on “Compressed gas cylinder safety”.

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