Despite the disquieting frequency of accidents caused by cooking gas cylinder burst, consumers at large still seem to be unaware of simple safety checks of gas cylinders delivered at home.

A family at Malippuram narrowly escaped unhurt while their house bore brunt of the explosion cause by a gas cylinder burst in their kitchen earlier this week.

Every cylinder is marked with an alphanumeric code denoting the due date for its pressure test to ensure fitness. While the alphabets A, B, C, and D denote three months each in a year, the last two digits indicate the year. So, if a cylinder marked with A10 is delivered, it means that the cylinder has outlived its test date of March 2010 and should be immediately returned.

Sharada Joby and Neelima, housewives, had neither noticed the code on the cylinder nor were aware of its significance. “We ask the delivery man to check whether something is wrong with the cylinder only when we suspect a leakage owing to the smell,” she said.

Things have slightly improved after the recent spate of cylinder bursts. Bipin P.D, manager of a city-based distributor of Indane Gas, said that since the latest incident they had received a few calls from consumers raising safety concerns.

“Earlier, we used to conduct a random check of 10 per cent of the cylinders for weight variation and test due date. Now we ensure that no cylinder beyond the due date for test goes for supply,” Mr. Bipin said.

Ramesh, proprietor of a HP Gas agency distributor in South Kalamassery, said that consumers rarely raise safety concerns as most of the times the consumer will not be at home and the cylinder is delivered at the neighbour’s place.

Tharian Peter, Territory Manager, LPG Division of BPCL in Kochi, said that customers should check the test due date and insist the delivery man to connect the cylinder to the gas stove and light the burner to ensure that the cylinder is safe for use. “We have made it mandatory for our distributors to follow this but often the delivery personnel don’t follow it and the majority of consumers fail to demand it,” he said.

Mr. Peter said that excessive pressure level in cylinders can hardly be the reason for bursts. A normal LPG cylinder will have a pressure of between 3 and 8 kg while the test is done to ensure that the cylinders can withstand pressure up to 25 kg. Also, the cylinder manufacturers conduct the mandatory burst test at an even higher pressure of about 80 kg.

“So, the cylinders are not going to acquire pressure levels causing their explosion, unless it gets overheated externally,” Mr. Peter said.

Plant manager of another major oil company explained the exhaustive hydrostatic and pneumatic testing to ensure the safety of cylinders.

While new cylinders that hit the market are tested after ten years and then after every five year, the relatively old cylinders in the supply chain are constantly subjected to quality checks and repairs. We segregate cylinders with wear and tare, the dented and rusted ones, for hot repair. They are then subjected to quality check for valve leakage and the o-ring in the valve which is attached to the regulator is also tested. Cylinders are then passed through what is referred to as test bath to detect body leak, the official said.

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