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The cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood visiting her Granny, only to find that the old lady had been replaced by a wolf, is being re-enacted up and down the country every day – even when it’s not pantomime season.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

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.

Why you should never relax about security when you travel

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.

What’s to stop thieves stealing your safe?

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

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.

Your Holiday Security Essentials

Although the fickle weather is again contradicting the seasons, our great British summer and the holiday season is barely a week away. Whether you are loading up the car or heading for the airport make sure you have left your home safe from intruders by taking sensible precautions.
Our community police liaison officer and the neighbourhood watch have issued some good advice to minimise the risks both home and away. Go through the checklist before you travel.

191a – Cancel newspapers, milk and any other regular deliveries.

– Turn off the water supply and unplug all but essential electrical appliances.

– If you have an intruder alarm make sure you activate it before you travel. Preferably leave the alarm activation code and a house key with someone near to your home who you trust in case of emergencies.

– Lock the windows

– Let someone know you itinerary and give a contact number. You can also inform the police when you are away or if you have one, inform your Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator.

– Put valuables in a safe place preferably in a home safe with bolt down capability or in a good quality strongbox again fixed to a solid structure and out of sight. Move any other valuables such as ornaments out of plain sight.

– Secure any outbuildings with quality locks or padlocks and preferably lock expensive tools and equipment away in a secure steel tool chest or cabinet.

– Don’t take expensive jewellery on holiday if at all possible. If you must have your bling with you then hire a safe deposit box at your resort accommodation. You should also check your travel insurance cover is adequate.

– Carry as little cash as you can. The prepaid currency cards are a practical alternative and can be used like any other debit card, including making cash withdrawals from foreign ATM’s. You can usually get a better exchange rate into the bargain.

– If travelling by car don’t leave valuable in plain sight, particularly when the vehicle is unattended. Opportunist thefts from vehicles in service stations are common so lock valuables in the boot or glove compartment.

– Finally make sure you have the contact numbers should an emergency arise whilst you are away i.e. Insurance Help Line, Bank and Credit Card provider, Holiday Accommodation and Flight Provider.
Have a happy and relaxed holiday