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Calor issues safety warning after oil drum death
Published:  31 July, 2012

Calor Gas has warned about the dangers of tampering with gas cylinders after an Oxfordshire man was killed trying to turn an empty oil drum into a barbecue.

This warning follows the death of a man last weekend, 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 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 on how to transform or deconstruct LPG cylinders, and has warned that it will take legal action against persistent offenders. However, in spite of 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: "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 the company says its 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 an unlawful offence and could lead to a claim for damages or criminal prosecution.

Earlier this year, 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 Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspector commented: "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 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/.