On Saturday a dangerous fire incident occurred at a house in Male’. Maldives National Defence Force, the authority tasked with ensuring gas-related service providers adhere to safety standards, said the incident occurred, not due to faulty cylinder, but due to the failure to tighten the regulator properly after changing the cylinder. In the incident, the regulator and the pipe were burnt.
The regulator is not part of the cylinder. It is the device that connects the cylinder to the stove with a hose, a device easily available in the market. It is not something which requires safety checks such as gas cylinders; not something that MNDF goes from door-to-door to inspect. Regulator and hose are considered as part of the stove.
Gas cylinders normally used in the Maldives are not owned by private citizens. The cylinders used in houses of Male’, Villimale’ and Hulhumale’ are owned by service providers. Houses can general have up to two cylinders – the one connected to the stone and a reserve cylinder. When one runs out, the other is connected to the stove. This process is usually carried out by a member of the household. It is a choice left to consumer. And it rarely happens that the regulator is fixed incorrectly, either due to carelessness or due to lack of knowledge. Saturday’s incident was one of those rare occurrences.
If the regulator or the cap is not installed properly, there is a high chance of gas leakage, which is detected by smell. In its natural form, cooking gas is odourless. The smell comes from an odourant which is added to it as a safety measure. Therefore, if there is a leakage, it will give out a strong odour. If one doesn’t pay attention to it and lights fire, the fire will spread. It is not the fault of the suppliers or those who carry out safety inspections, but the fault of the consumer.
There are different types of gases, among which is Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – used for cooking. The gas is stored in the cylinder at a relatively normal pressure of 5 Bars. The pressure and other safety features of the gas cylinder makes it difficult for it to explode, even if there is a gas leak. On the other hand, oxygen cylinders and fire extinguishers are riskier than LPG cylinders. Oxygen cylinders have 200 Bars, which is a fifty times higher pressure than that of LPG. So, if there is a leakage in an oxygen cylinder, it would explode like a rocket. However, ironically, some people are not even close to precautious when handling oxygen cylinders.
Maldives usually imports gas cylinders from India, Indonesia and Malaysia. These cylinders are manufactured to fit certain standards and safety measures. No matter who the importer is, the cylinders are inspected by MNDF. They check whether safety procedures are followed when gas is filled into the cylinders. MNDF conducts at least two rounds of inspections annually.
If a cylinder gets rusted, it goes through three stages of safety checks and is discarded by the service provider. It is a careful process carried out with the supervision of experts. Because of this robust safety procedure, a gas-cylinder-related incident has never occurred in the Maldives.
However, various reasons may contribute to an unfortunate incident. No matter how strong a cylinder is or how perfect the safety inspection procedure is, no one can give the guarantee that such an incident would never occur. Accidents can be avoided when everyone involved in the service, including consumers, are careful and follow safety procedures.