Are we using LPG safely?
While the use of LPG is growing exponentially in Bangladesh, it is now more important than ever to handle this flammable product safely. Portable and refillable cylinders of different sizes are designed for household, commercial or industrial settings. Flawed use and lack of maintenance of these cylinders often cause explosion taking severe toll on life and property. Mohammad Yasin Arafat, Director of Jamuna Gas, states, “Most accidents are occurring due to negligence in usage rather than faulty manufacturing. We always ask users to turn off the regulator after usage. However, people tend to turn off the stove instead of the regulator which leads to chances of gas leakage. Moreover, food spills over the knob of the stove while cooking so even though it may seem that it is turned off, sometimes it is in fact, turned on. The gas tends to slip out from inside.”
He adds, “We also tend to keep the hose pipe bent which increases the chances of gas leakage after a certain period of time. In such a scenario, if we still don’t turn off the regulator and turn off the stove only, the gas will continue to leak. These are the main causes of accidents. However, the effects can be neutralised if such incidents occur near an open window. Unfortunately, in many cases, the windows are closed, leading to major accidents. Thus, such accidents are less common in rural areas and occur more in urban areas.” Engr Md Jakaria Jalal, General Manager (Sales) of Bashundhara LP Gas Ltd, suggests, “The cylinder cannot be placed sideways, or upside down; the cylinder should not be placed in a confined area.” Shamsul Haque Ahmed, CEO of Omera Petroleum Limited, emphasises upon taking individual care according to usage.
“Each segment has its own way of ensuring safety.
For instance, hotels or restaurants have a certain way of using cylinders whilst domestic households have another. In high-rise buildings we install cylinder banks with metering systems as it is not possible to carry and install cylinders in every flat,” says Shamsul Haque Ahmed. Although most gas companies are raising safety concerns and undertaking the required steps, some companies are bringing in innovative methods to enhance the safety levels of cylinders. For instance, Beximco has introduced the composite fibreglass cylinder which is a Type 2 or 3 cylinder.
M Muntasir Alam, Chief Commercial Officer of Beximco LPG, informs, “Steel cylinders are very hard and the gas pressure is always very high. If we expose them to extreme heat of the kitchen and commercial burner, or the extreme heat resulting from a house on fire, the gas inside the cylinders starts expanding due to enhanced pressure. At one point, the steel cannot handle the pressure and explodes. It is highly flammable and thus it explodes with fire. However, when cylinders made of composite fibreglass are used, they will melt and gas will also come out but there will be no explosion.” When asked about the role of LNG providers in ensuring safety of the cylinders, Monzur Morshed Siddiqui, Managing Director of Total Bangladesh, shares, “LPG cylinders are regularly checked at the plants, where we check the valve and cylinder for leakage. However, it is not possible for us to check the regulator, hose pipe and the burner. The users have to be aware and take charge of changing these within the stated time.”
He adds, “We distribute leaflets and train retailers and distributors and host safety awareness campaigns for consumers. Awareness sessions are also hosted by Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Department of Explosives, LPG Operators Association of Bangladesh (LOAB) with whom we associate.” Regarding proper usage of cylinders in vehicles, Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, Assistant Professor of Accident Research Institute (ARI), BUET, suggests, “Cylinders have to be tested every five years. The risks lie in the fact that the cylinders are not retested in our country. The cylinders expire and since a certain level of pressure is required to refill the cylinders, the expired cylinders cannot handle that pressure and eventually burst. Connection failure can also occur if the materials/parts used are faulty though the cylinders are in a good state.” He adds, “Type 1 cylinders are usually used in our country. However, better quality cylinders of Type 2 or 3 are available now and we can use them after testing them nationally. We should also ensure that the cylinders have the right pressure.”