WorkCover NSW and Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) recently issued a safety warning about filling LPG cylinders and starting gas barbecues.
The warning follows two recent fires at Sydney service stations involving LPG cylinders as well as a series of LPG and barbecue fires caused largely by the wear and tear of gas hoses and burners.
The service station fires at Newtown and Hoxton Park were the result of unsafe practices when decanting LPG into smaller cylinders, such as those used in barbeques, said general manager of WorkCover NSW’s work health and safety division, John Watson.
“Working with LPG cylinders can be dangerous due to the risk of fire and explosion when cylinders are over-filled or potential ignition sources, such as static electricity, are not controlled,” Watson said.
“LPG cylinders should be ‘earthed’ while being filled, by placing them on the ground to limit the risk of static electricity build from the flow of gas. They should also never be left unattended while being filled as this can lead to overfilling and gas escaping.”
In the five years to June 2011 there have been 782 claims for incidents involving gas cylinders, and while no-one was injured in these incidents, Watson said significant damage was caused to both properties and a serious threat was posed to workers, members of the public, and surrounding residential and commercial properties.
“There are a number of risks that businesses need to address when decanting LPG into cylinders, such as not using cylinders that are damaged or corroded, not using cylinders with damaged attachments or leaking hoses, and decanting a safe distance from fuel dispensers, flammable materials, tanks containing dangerous goods, public places, and building entries and exits,” he said.
FRNSW commissioner Greg Mullins said since 1 June, firefighters had responded to 64 barbecue fires and 67 leaking or damaged LPG cylinders and hoses, the majority of which were BBQ cylinders.
“When a cylinder leaks, especially on balconies, the gas pools until something ignites it like a cigarette or an electrical spark,” Commissioner Mullins said.
“We saw this recently on 29 August where the resulting explosion and fire caused extensive damage and nearly claimed the life of the family who lived in the unit. The barbecue hadn’t been used for several months and the cylinder had not been turned off. When the air conditioner kicked in, the gas ignited.”