In this film, Calor’s Alistair Todd, Area Cylinder Manager for Scotland and the North, talks about the impact of metal theft on both the business and its customers, and the serious safety concerns which come with this unlawful activity.
Calor Gas Limited is extremely concerned about the massive dangers of people tampering with gas cylinders seeking to turn the cylinders into wood burning stoves, barbecues or similar.
This follows the death of a man in August 2012 when an empty oil drum he was apparently trying to turn into a barbecue exploded at a house in Oxfordshire. It is believed the 48 year old was fatally injured when the angle grinder he was using may have ignited fumes in the 40-gallon drum.
The conversion of any vessel which has previously held flammable or explosive material is extremely dangerous. Calor has issued a number of warnings about the dangers of attempting to construct wood burners or barbecues from Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders. Calor is aware of a number of websites giving instructions about how to transform or deconstruct LPG cylinders and have warned that they will take legal action against persistent offenders.
However, in spite of Calor’s repeated warnings, members of public are still posting messages on the internet advising other users about how to purge cylinders of gas. This is extremely dangerous. Paul Blacklock, Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs warned that ‘although in this case, it was an oil barrel, and not an LPG cylinder that exploded, it is alarming to see a rise in untrained people engaging in this type of activity, particularly during periods of improved weather. Advice on how to create wood burning stoves or barbecues is widespread on the internet. This is not only dangerous, but unlawful. Subsequently, we will be pursuing legal action against these websites and anyone who is found to be unlawfully tampering with Calor cylinders.’
Calor cylinders are used widely, whether at home, for leisure or at work, and their safety record is exemplary. LPG cylinders are safe when used correctly, following the accompanying safety instructions. But LPG is a highly flammable material. If a welding torch or power cutter is used on an LPG cylinder, even if it appears to be empty, it can explode violently. As well as the safety implications of a potential gas explosion, tampering with LPG cylinders or attempting to change their use is unlawful offence and could lead to a claim for damages or criminal prosecution.
Earlier in 2012, the boss of a St Helens gas supply firm was fined £22,500 for causing multiple burns to both himself and one of his employees by attempting to remove a valve from an LPG cylinder. The HSE inspector commented that “in this case, the fact that no one was killed was simply down to luck.”
Irresponsible websites and publications encourage users to put their lives at risk, through step-by-step guides, and even videos, demonstrating how to de-construct or convert a cylinder. They have been repeatedly asked by Calor to remove their directions but many have not complied.
All Calor’s cylinders are the property of Calor Gas Limited and are supplied to customers under a refill agreement which contains important safety information. Calor’s ownership of the cylinders is further emphasised in that they are embossed with the word ‘CALOR’ on the metal casing and are stencilled with the words ‘Extremely Flammable, Property of and only to be filled by Calor Gas Ltd, Warwick.’ Further advice is on the Calor website at http://www.calor.co.uk/customer-services/lpg-safety/.
Illegal handling and scrapping of calor gas cylinders
1. The problem
In recent years there has been a well-publicised epidemic of metal thefts taking place across the British Isles. Calor has noticed a rise in cylinders not being returned, and instead being sold for scrap or disposed as waste. The UK LPG industry estimates that metal theft for illegal scrapping or export runs at around 1% of the cylinder population per annum. The 200,000 or so cylinders that are misappropriated come at a replacement value to the industry of approximately £9 million. Calor’s cylinders account for around half of the losses i.e. 100,000 cylinders at a replacement value of c£4.5m.
Our cylinders have been caught up in this in two ways:
• Illegal scrapping – We were aware of a number of scrap metal operations who were actively taking in our cylinders, cutting them up and them selling them on as scrap. The cylinders are valuable because they are made of steel and have brass fittings.
• Illegal export – We have also exposed concerted and organised criminal efforts to obtain cylinders and then export them en masse, in containers, to countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. We are working closely with the Police, UK Border Agency and the scrap metal industry to address these issues.
2. Valuable company assets
Over the years Calor has placed more than 10 million cylinders on to the British market with a replacement value of well over £200 million. Each year Calor invests between £10m and £11m putting new cylinders into circulation and maintaining the existing fleet. This is a significant investment. LPG cylinders, with hardly any exceptions are, and remain owned by the supplying company (not only Calor Gas). This fact is clearly indicated on the cylinders in various ways, by stencilling, embossing and by means of data plates.
3. The solutions
Illegal Scrapping – We welcome the action the Government has already taken in respect of prohibiting the use of cash payments at scrap yards. This was further enhanced by Richard Ottaway MP’s Private Members Bill which reformed the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act and should make it much harder for scrap dealers to process stolen scrap metal. The emphasis must now shift to the enforcement of these new powers by the various agencies – Police, Local Authorities, Environment Agency and UK Border Agency.
Illegal Export – We are working with the UK Border Agency to help with their direct activity at UK ports, but much more clearly needs to be done. There needs to be greater focus on this area from Government, shipping companies and port authorities.
Calor Gas Limited cylinders are and remain the property of Calor Gas Limited at all times and are clearly marked to that effect. Only persons duly authorised by the company are entitled to be in possession of such cylinders. Authorisation includes those who have entered into a contract with the company either as dealers or retailers, or as end users. Gas (LPG – either butane or propane) is supplied to end users in such cylinders, but the cylinder must be returned to Calor Gas Limited either direct or through one of our authorised outlets when the cylinder is no longer required. There is significant legal precedent confirming Calor Gas Limited’s title in and right to control its cylinders at all times against third parties handling Calor cylinders without permission.
Calor calls for vigilance in the fight against metal theft
A safety alert has been issued by Calor Gas Limited warning people of the dangers of attempting to construct wood burners from Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders
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