As the £1.3bn outdoor catering industry gears up for the peak summer season, the trade association for the LP Gas industry, UKLPG, along with NCASS, is urging operators to heed safety advice when storing, transporting, handling and using LP gas cylinders. Richard Hakeem, director of technical and safety policy at UKLPG, explains.
As the preferred cooking option for thousands of caterers, LP Gas has been used to supply fuel to the outdoor event sector for decades. Indeed, according to Nationwide Caterers’ Association (NCASS), there are currently just under 10,000 outdoor catering operators in the UK, running 13,000 outlets, consuming up to 700,000 cylinders of LP Gas a year. As more and more people turn to LP Gas for their outdoor cooking options, we are keen to raise awareness about safety. This year, NCASS has introduced some basic training for LP Gas users to help them minimise the risks; unfortunately there are still a handful of adverse incidents each year and as an industry we are keen to ensure these are prevented. With LP Gas cylinders used for outdoor catering there are three key pieces of kit that need to be managed: the cylinder, the regulator that regulates the flow of gas to the cooking appliances and the hoses that connect the cylinder to the appliance.
With cylinders, the first consideration has to be the weight. A full cylinder will weigh twice the contents weight shown on it, so has to be lifted carefully or a trolley used. Cylinders should always be transported and stored with the valve at the top.Cylinders are easy to use if you follow the supplier’s instructions; having said that, remember that you should not use propane cylinders indoors. Butane cylinders can only be used indoors if the appliance is specifically designed to house the cylinder, such as a cabinet heater.When not in use, cylinders must be stored outside in an accessible place, not in door or passageways and not in cellars, by cellar openings or below ground level. If they are in an area where people walk past, cylinders should be restrained to stop them falling over. Although they are robust, cylinders must be treated with care to ensure they do not get damaged; remember the contents are flammable so never subject cylinders to heat. Once they have been used, return empty cylinders to the nearest stockist.
Regulators are necessary to reduce the variable cylinder pressure to the constant low pressure needed by the appliance. They come in two variations: screwed connectors and quick connect. These are specific to the type of cylinder they can be attached to and should be clearly marked BSEN12864.
Most screwed connections, other than those specifically for camping, are ‘left-handed’ and tighten in the opposite direction to a normal screw. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when making connections and use the correct-sized spanner. Do not over-tighten and do not force a regulator or its mechanism, if it does not fit easily. It is important to make sure that the outlet pressure of the regulator is the same as the inlet pressure of the appliance(s), but don’t tamper with or try to adjust regulators as they are pre-set by the manufacturer to control the gas supply at the correct pressure.Finally, regulators should always be protected from the rain and if they are more than 10 years old or show signs of wear or damage, then replace them.
Hoses have to be clearly marked BS 3212 or BSEN 1763 and, if the outlet pressure of the regulator exceeds 50 mbar, should also be clearly marked as ‘High Pressure LPG’. Hose lengths should be as short as possible but long enough so that they are not pulled tight; always secure with proper hose clips. Jubilee clips are only suitable for low-pressure hoses where the outlet pressure is less than 50mbar. Finally, keep hoses clear of hot surfaces and replace any hose that is more than 10 years old or that shows signs of wear, cracking or damage. When it comes to cooking appliances, you should never connect a natural gas appliance to an LP Gas supply, or try to improvise or modify your gas appliance. Use in accordance with the supplier’s instructions and keep them properly maintained as damaged equipment poses a safety risk. Always ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air.
This summer promises to be a prosperous and exciting season for the outdoor catering sector, especially if safety remains front of mind at all times. For more information visit the UKLPG website or the NCASS website or speak to your LP Gas supplier.