Here are some tips on safe holiday entertaining.
Check your equipment
Replace cylinders if they appear damaged or rusty. Check them for leaks by spraying or brushing a soapy water solution onto them – bubbles will form if gas is escaping. You can also check hose ends and regulator connections this way – it’s important to check the whole barbecue/cylinder set-up, not just the cylinder itself.
Check hoses to make sure they haven’t perished. Replace hoses every five years.
Check connections to make sure they’re clean and fit snugly.
- Cylinders can't be refilled if they haven't been tested in the last 10 years, or if they're damaged. You can tell how old your cylinder is by looking at the date stamped on the collar. To get your cylinder tested, look in the gas cylinder testing section of the Yellow Pages.
- Testing costs around $33 and includes valve replacement.
Cylinder dos and don'ts
Don’t store cylinders indoors – including the garage, shed or under the house. Keep them outdoors.
- Always keep LPG cylinders upright – they shouldn’t be laid on their side.
- When transporting a cylinder, make sure it’s well secured so it can’t roll around. Wedge it into the back of you vehicle so it can’t move, or tie it up with a strap.
Don’t leave cylinders in the car.
Barbecue dos and don'ts
- Never use a barbecue on the wrong kind of gas. The data plate on the side of the barbecue should state the correct type of gas to use with your model.
Don't barbecue in a confined space or indoors - the fumes can be toxic and you could start a fire.
- Make sure there's plenty of clearance around your barbecue to avoid it becoming a fire risk.
- After using your babrecue, remove all excess fat so it doesn't end up a fire hazard.
Don't use gas barbecues when it's really windy, as the burners might blow out, causing a serious gas leak or an explosive ignition.
Energy Safe Victoria (formerly the Office of Gas Safety) approves of cylinder exchange systems for gas refills because cylinder safety checks are done at each refill and because the refilling process is generally safer, with well-trained staff under controlled conditions.
SWAP’n’GO is the biggest such scheme and operates in over 4500 outlets around the country. The idea is that you leave an empty cylinder (your own or one of theirs) and take a full one in exchange. When it’s empty, you can keep it and refill it yourself or swap it again. So you enter the scheme with a cylinder and leave with one, but it’s unlikely to be the same one. If you don’t already own a cylinder you can buy a SWAP’n’GO one; if you have one but it hasn’t been tested and stamped in 10 years, you get a reduced rate on a new SWAP’n’GO one.
The empty cylinders are collected from outlets and the company conducts safety checks, cleans them (and, if necessary, paints them), refills them and sends them out again. Old cylinders undergo the standard 10-year recertification test, with a visual inspection for damage inside and outside, and the valve is replaced. Rusty or damaged cylinders are recycled as scrap metal.
SWAP’n’GO charges around $36 when swapping a 9 kg cylinder. If your purchasing the first cylinder it's around $80. As more and more refillers change over to that system, it’s becoming harder to find places where you can refill your own bottle, which some people are finding annoying. On the other hand, it offers safety benefits missing from the regular refilling process. Service station owners find it handy because they don’t need staff filling bottles, and it’s quicker for you - you don’t have to wait for the refill.
There are many different sizes of gas bottles that don’t fit into the Swap'n'Go solution above. These are a danger as there are no recycling options available for consumers to use. Gas bottles for barbecues, camping stoves, lamps and heaters can end up being stored and forgotten, ending up in our normal recycling avenue and creating a major hazard for Australian recycling companies. Explosions occur when these gas cylinders slip through the safety precautions, endangering workers.
At the moment there is no avenue for these cylinders to be recycled or disposed of safely, which isn’t good enough. Australia needs a product stewardship program, where manufacturers offer an avenue for consumers to return their used gas cylinders, creating a closed loop life cycle for these products. CHOICE believes the federal government should implement a product stewardship scheme similar to the e-waste scheme currently being developed.