Refilling gas cylinders

WorkSafe is issuing a safety alert about the hazards associated with refilling Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders.
Safety alert published

Thursday 15 Jul 2021

Industries and topics
  • Dangerous goods

Background

There have been two recent incidents involving the refilling of LPG cylinders (gas cylinders), such as those used in forklifts and barbeques.

  • Incident 1 – Fire Rescue Victoria and Victoria Police attended a service station where a member of the public had tried to fill a barbeque gas cylinder from a LPG dispensing bowser, causing a leak and releasing gas into the atmosphere.
  • Incident 2 – an employee received burn injuries to their hands whilst refilling a forklift gas cylinder from a LPG dispenser.

Whilst only minor injuries were sustained in both incidents, they highlight the potential danger associated with filling gas cylinders from a LPG dispenser.

Safety issues

LPG is a classified as a dangerous goods flammable gas (Class 2.1).

Filling of a portable gas cylinder at a service station vehicle LPG dispensing bowser is dangerous and prohibited. There is a risk of fire and explosion when gas cylinders are over-filled or when potential ignition sources such as static electricity, are not controlled.

Regulation 42 of the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 outlines specific obligations regarding the transfer of Dangerous Goods, specifically the requirement to have measures in place to control spills and leaks, minimise static electricity and control vapour generation.

Recommended ways to control risks

Prevent or stop unsafe gas cylinder filling

  • Only allow trained persons to carry out gas cylinder filling tasks.
  • Only allow vehicles to re-fuel at automotive LPG dispensing bowsers.
  • Ensure service station operators have a full view of the dispensing bowsers and are trained to shut down the dispenser in an emergency.

Ensure operators filling gas cylinders have knowledge and training

  • Ensure operators can demonstrate competency in filling procedures and emergencies.
  • Ensure operators understand the risks associated with static electricity and use the controls set out in safety procedures.
  • Ensure operators use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Ensure operators do not use devices to hold the valve open (i.e. a screwdriver, cable ties, jubilee-type clips).

Ensure a safe environment for gas filling

  • Identify and control hazards associated with the filling of gas cylinders.
  • Ensure the filling station area is a safe distance from fuel dispensers, flammable materials, tanks containing dangerous goods, public places, building entries and exits.
  • Ensure no ignition sources, such as static electricity and smoking, are in or near the filling area.
  • Ensure adequate fire protection is in the filling area. At a minimum, have a hose reel or powder-type extinguisher available.

Develop safe procedures

  • Ensure procedures are developed for safe gas cylinder filling.
  • Ensure cylinders are inspected periodically and are marked with a test date in the last 10 years.
  • Remove cylinders that are damaged, corroded, have damaged attachments or leaking hoses, to ensure they are not used.

Safety checks

Before filling a cylinder ensure:

  • the cylinder has a valid test date
  • the cylinder is free from damage, broken fittings or rust
  • the filling instructions have been read and understood
  • appropriate PPE is being worn (eg hearing, eye and foot protection)

If you cannot verify the above, you should not fill the cylinder. Consult with your employer, the occupier and/or a health and safety representative before proceeding.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees (including independent contractors). Where the risk cannot be eliminated, so far as is reasonably practicable, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the employer's undertaking.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety at work, and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at a workplace.

The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 also sets out legal duties for occupiers of premises where dangerous goods are stored or handled. The Code of Practice for storage and handling of dangerous goods provides practical information on how to comply.