Awareness of the safe handling of the domestic gas cylinder is unacceptably low

Do you enter a safe kitchen every morning to make your cup of coffee?

Five separate incidents of LPG cylinder blasts at homes in Chennai in the last four months raise this doubt. How far people are aware or take the lurking danger seriously? Though Madurai has not reported any serious accident related to LPG cylinder blasts in recent times, the provider companies – IndianOil Corporation Ltd. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum (HP) – can’t choose to sit easy. In the wake of such accidents in metros, the companies are running aggressive campaigns.

Taking the lead is a major player, IOC. The company has launched “safety clinics” and plans to conduct a mega one next month.

Another major player, BPCL, is reaching out to its customers through programmes on All India Radio. It has also come out with a CD explaining all aspects of LPG safety, whichis screened for consumers in all distributors’ offices. HPCL is conducting safety melas in smaller towns and villages.

Yet, awareness of the safe handling of the domestic gas cylinder is unacceptably low. Take the case of Latha Freeda Joan, a senior official in the Health Department in Madura. She admits to not turning off the regulator knob daily even though she knows it is an essential safety tip.

“I turn off the cylinder regulator only when I am going out of station. Otherwise I don’t touch it. But I keep the windows open during the night,” she says.

There is another risk in this home as the delivery boy doesn’t get a chance to do pre-delivery checks while supplying the refill cylinder. “My neighbours take the cylinder on my behalf as I am away at office. I know it has to be checked for valve defect, but somehow I have not done it so far,” she confesses.

M.Sureshkumar, partner, Suresh Gas Agency on Bypass Road which handles 21,000 ‘Indane’ gas consumers, says that working women families are at a greater risk as they don’t get to know the condition of the cylinder. Also, in many families, the delivery boys are not allowed into the kitchen and they leave the refill outside.

“It is important that our delivery boys install the filled cylinder and check the valve/regulator and tube. But if customers do not allow them to carry this out, what can we do? The rule is that the cylinder is checked in front of the customer,” he says.

Mr.Sureshkumar points out that as distributors are not allowed to check the cylinder in their godowns, it is a must for domestic consumers to check whether the company seal and safety cap are intact. The fear and anxiety caused by such situations can be gauged from what M.S.Mohan, a city hospital house-keeping employee says, “On three occasions, we had heavy gas smell in our house at New Vilangudi. Some strange sound came from the cylinder washer and I had to urgently call the distributor to replace the regulator. At times, there will not be any smell but the gas could have accumulated in the kitchen due to faulty tube. I have strictly told my wife to first open the kitchen windows in the morning, wait for few minutes and only then light the stove. We have also started checking the cylinder while taking delivery. Reading about LPG accidents has created a fear in us. We consumers have a responsibility to follow safety precautions.”

A senior official at the IOC Madurai Area Office advises LPG consumers to ensure cross ventilation in the kitchen and free flow of air. “We find people keeping rice bags and containers on a full cylinder. Imagine the risk,” he says.

Gas companies and dealers reiterate the importance of switching off the regulator at night. “Some homes have rodents running around, so checking the rubber tube of the cylinder is a must” – is the IOC safety team’s appeal to consumers.

A. Jabamalai Raj, BPCL Manager, LPG Sale-Madurai Division, says that most of the gas cylinder accidents are occurring in homes and not in transportation or at the storage points.

“This indicates that consumer awareness has to go up and only personal care can prevent leakage or any other danger from the LPG cylinder. We are going to conduct safety clinics in schools and colleges so that students take the message to their parents,” he adds.

The companies recommend only ‘Suraksha’ gas tube which has three layers and thereby prevents leakage to a great extent. “It is just a matter of few rupees. If our consumers are not changing to the prescribed rubber tube, we will be forced to stop delivery of the cylinder. Also, the delivery boys are instructed to check the valve and washer,” Mr.Jabamalai Raj says.

The HPCL Madurai Regional Office has organised LPG awareness camps at Natham, Thirupathur, Kamudhi, Kadamalagundu and Srivilliputtur. “We have emphasied upon our customers that neglect could cost them their life.”

Delivery boys and mechanics undergo regular training through the dealers since they too are a vital link in the safety chain. New LPG cylinder consumers are appraised of the safety features.

Having a LPG cylinder connection at home is not just about using it and booking for refills. A few minutes spent to check the regulator, rubber tube and washer of the gas cylinder, goes a long way to keep you and your neighbours safe.

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