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Is your business Gas safe?

Cooking with gas proves to be a risky business

The dangers of unsafe use of portable gas appliances has made the news again with a recent SafeWork NSW blitz of restaurants, cafes and bakeries finding nearly a quarter of all workplaces were using portable gas appliances unsafely.

The regulator visited 432 food businesses as part of the campaign, and found that 99 were using portable gas appliances in breach of work health and safety laws.

The blitz follows incidents last year when a 35-year-old man sustained severe burns after a gas cylinder stored in a cafeteria exploded, and another where a 32-year-old baker suffered serious burns to his face, neck and arms following an explosion when he tried to light a portable gas burner.

The NSW Government, like many other governments around Australia, is grappling with this issue. In NSW, in the three years to July 2016 there were 18 workers' compensation claims, costing more than $200,000, for hospitality industry workers injured in incidents involving LPG cylinders.

NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said commercial kitchens should be using gas connected to fixed mains or industrial cylinders, which must be stored and handled in accordance with dangerous goods laws.

"We've seen shocking cases of workers with horrific injuries when gas appliances aren't used correctly and have caused explosions and fires," he said.

Numerous LPG risks

It is important for all businesses to assess how they store and use LPG cylinders - whether they are used on the odd occasion, for example, staff barbecues, or on a much more regular basis.

The storage of gas appliances and cylinders is also important. They should be outdoors or in an open area to avoid the risk of asphyxia and, in some cases, stored in accordance with the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, depending on the number of cylinders.

All portable gas appliances must be certified in accordance with Australian Standards and, in most jurisdictions, must be approved by an accredited certifier. It is important that the appliances only be used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.

It is also critical that portable gas heaters and appliances are used in well-ventilated areas - and checked regularly for leaks too.

The other issue that safety inspectors have found is with portable gas appliances imported from overseas which, in some cases, do not comply with Australian Standards and have not been approved by a recognised testing organisation such as the Australian Gas Association, SAI Global, IAPMO R&T Oceana, Global-Mark and the Queensland Gas Association.

Steps you can take

Some steps your business can take to reduce the risks associated with portable gas appliances include:

  • review the ways in which portable LPG cylinders are currently used at your organisation;
  • regularly check to see if the cylinders are fit for use;
  • review how the cylinders are being stored and ensure that this is done in the safest area possible;
  • ensure that your process for using gas cylinders eliminates or reduces as far as practicable the risks of fire, explosion and asphyxia; and
  • ensure that only trained staff are using the cylinders - and that they read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.