Can be avoided by adhering to safety norms

Wednesday’s accident near Salem that left five persons dead and many more battling for life has turned the spotlight once more on the disastrous consequences of improper handling of cooking gas cylinders.

Going by the reported cases, this is the fifth accident involving LPG cylinders since January in the State. Of these, three were in Chennai, while the fourth was in Erode.

The pattern

There is an ironical pattern to most of the LPG related accidents, something that can be avoided by adhering to safety guidelines, oil industry officials say. Cooking gas cylinder explosions are often reported early in the morning and sparked invariably by people, just out of bed, switching on the light or striking a match to light the burner.

In many cases, the cylinder leak happens through the night.

The reasons could be many: ranging from leaving the regulator valve open or rodents aggravating the damage to the tube made from rubber.

Morning shocks

Like the other fatal LPG accidents this year, the one in Attayampatti village, about 25 km from Salem, occurred in the morning. One of the victims, Indane officials said, turned on the stove knob and then went out to get milk.

On her return, unaware of the LPG vapour cloud that had formed in the kitchen, she struck a match.

What followed next was a huge fire in a flash, a representative of cooking gas distributors in Salem said, adding the cylinder, however, was intact. An IOC official described it as a vapour cloud explosion.

Besides morning grogginess, the sensory responses also are slow soon after getting up.

Instead of rushing into the chores, people should sit in the bed for a few minutes and then proceed to the kitchen, officials of oil companies say.

Safety clinics

On their efforts to create public awareness, officials of oil marketing companies – IOC, BPCL and HPCL – say the distributors conduct safety clinics at frequent intervals for the customers.

Defective washers

Consumer activist T. Sadagopan, however, says there is little information about safety clinics conducted by many distributors, especially those catering to customers in rural villages.

The Consumer Protection Department should also insist on the distributors to conduct such clinics. He also cites the rising incidents of cut O-rings (washers) in the cylinders resulting in leaks.

Agreeing that defective O-rings were not uncommon, sources among distributors say sometimes cylinders that were due for maintenance continue to be in circulation.

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