Stemming cooking gas-related accidents/deaths
• How To Cook Safe With Gas • Govt Expects 20 Million Households To Switch To LPG In Five Years
• Safety Expert Wants Govt To Sensitise Populace On Effective Safety Measures
Whether sautéing sweet potatoes, boiling or steaming rice, or stir-frying beef or chicken, cooking gas has a groundswell of benefits especially in contemporary homes. Apart from insulating the kitchen area from being plastered with swathes of soot, the heat supplied by cooking gas is immediate.
Apart from the even heat distribution, the heat is also less wasted while also being unaffected by power cuts. In addition to its cheaper operating costs, cooking gas is cleaner fuel and it simplifies the cooking process.But like every good thing, cooking gas also has its very bad side, which is often ghastly.
In August 2015, the Obidigwe family of Azia in Ihiala Local Council of Anambra State, took delivery of the bodies of nine of their children, who were roasted to death in their Lagos abode.
Fifty-one-year-old Charles Obidigwe, a patent medicine dealer and head of the family died instantly, after an unsuccessful attempt to put out a fire, which engulfed his three-bedroom apartment. While Charles, the head of the family died instantly, the other eight members of his family, including his sister-in-law and her son, who were staying with them, died later in a Lagos hospital.The fire was ignited when a gas cylinder exploded and caught fire that engulfed the entire flat when Mrs. Obidigwe was preparing lunch for the family.
By the time the incident took place, no single neighbour of the Obidigwes had a fire extinguisher. So, by the time men of Lagos State Fire Service arrived, the harm had been done.On Sunday, July 16, 2017, the national vice president of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), South-South Zone, Eddie Bekom, died as a result of injuries he sustained from a gas explosion.
The fire, which killed Bekom, a staff of the Cross River Broadcasting Service (CRBS) in Ikom, also claimed his wife and one of his sons, while three other children sustained injuries. Up North, a gas explosion on August 28, 2017, reportedly wrecked the female hostel in the Jos campus of the Plateau State Polytechnic.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the fire, which started around 8.30 a.m., raged on till 11.44a.m., causing confusion among students and staff.Though no life was lost, the fire, which was as a result of gas explosion, the school’s rector, Dauda Gyemang, said, burnt school property and personal effect of students, who were all away to attend lectures. The use of gas in the hostel is prohibited.
Until Uche Okonkwo got married to Ifeoma, the latter never lit a gas cooker all her life. Her arrival in her husband’s modest apartment was, to say the least, a life-changing moment for her. Since they observed their low-keyed honeymoon at home, Okonkwo was still in bed when he heard a loud bang in the kitchen. Pronto he sprang and ran towards that direction only to meet his wife on the floor of the burning kitchen.
With one hand he flung her through the door and proceeded knock off supply from the giant gas cylinder stationed outside beside the kitchen window.
Once out of shock, Ifeoma explained that the first match she struck failed to light the cooker hence she went in search of another matchbox, as the failed stick was the last in the pack. By the time she could grab another match pack from the kitchen cabinet, the entire place had been filled with gas, and without any suspicion, she proceeded to light the cooker.
Situations like this Mrs. Oluremi Akinsanya, a gas retailer says is the reason why she takes time to educate her customers, especially those that are just switching to gas cooking. “Once I have a new customer, who is just being introduced to cooking with gas, one of the first things I preach to them is all the safety rules that I know of. I also caution them against sending children as young as 14 years of age to operate gas cookers when they are alone. This is because little things like mobile phones, or programmes on television set could distract them, and in the process set them up for danger,” she said.
The Federal Government intends to reach 20 million Nigerian households with its behaviour change communication strategy campaign, as its ‘Upgrade To Gas’ Campaign gathers momentum.Special Assistant to Minister of State for Petroleum on Refineries, Downstream and Infrastructures, Brenda Ataga, at a recent enlightenment campaign, urged Nigerians to switch from other means of cooking to LPG, adding that the Federal Government was taking drastic measures to ensure each household in the country can afford, and have adequate quantity of cooking gas it needs.
At the event, in Nyanya, Abuja, sponsored by a pro-health non-governmental organisation, Africare, Ataga told residents of the community that the Federal Government is looking at all the infrastructure for receiving gas, LPG specifically, so that gas becomes available. Obviously, with the soaring cost of kerosene, very many Nigerians are embracing cooking with LPG. This fact is evidenced by the sprouting up of very many gas shops in residential neighbourhoods.
Popularly called “Mama Gas,” Mrs. Akinlami has four gas refill outlets and she thinks government needs to further crash the price of LPG to enable poorer households embrace the use of clean energy for domestic cooking.She also wants the government to do far more than it is doing in terms of awareness creation in order to stem rising incidents of gas-related deaths in homes.
Speaking on the rising cases of gas-related deaths, a safety ambassador and National Public Relations Officer, Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON), Dr. Wilson Arikpo, said, “lack of appropriate knowledge, ignorance and carelessness are major causes of most accidents. The actions or inaction of humans constitutes a large percentage to accidents and the failure of equipment (which is still a subject of human inspection) completes the other percentage. People must understand the nature of gas and learn the right usage of cooking gas.
On what households can do to stay safe with cooking gas, he said, “People must understand where to mount the gas cylinder for instance. Most people who are involved in gas fire accidents, position the cylinders inside the same space as the gas cooker; whereas the rules say the gas cylinder should not be in a confined space, but in the open airy place, outside the kitchen. The regulators should be serviced regularly and the hose must be assessed for leakages.
“Children should not be allowed to operate the gas system as they may playfully forget to turn it off at the right time. Gas is like a spirit; it quickly permeates and enters pores and crevices where other substances cannot easily flow into. People will be more careful when they understand the true nature of cooking gas.”
“Cooking gas is a good and cost effective way to go, but people must be made aware of the inherent dangers associated with it and what safety measures must be put in place. I have not seen any effective safety measures and campaign by the government to sensitise the populace accordingly. We pay too much of lip service without a proper follow up plan. What safety measures will make a government give operating licenses to gas refill stations within residential areas? It is quite alarming. So I ask myself: Did they carry out any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)? Is the government really safety conscious?
“For now awareness creation by the government at all levels is abysmal. For instance, how many people know the physical hazards of ‘tip over explosion,’ and ‘uncontrolled projectile’ of a compressed cylinder; neither do they understand the chemical hazards associated with gas leakage.” Most users and dealers are not aware that gas cylinders have expiry dates hence the proliferation of expired gas cylinders. The ISPON chief agrees.
“Most cylinders are corroded with age and wrong handling or wrong exposure, resulting in wear and tear. To identify cylinders that have expired, you have to look around the top, pillar, or neck of the cylinder, where the dates and other details are usually stamped. The expiry dates are coded in letters and numbers, so it takes a trained, knowledgeable person to decode it.
“For instance letters like ABCD represent months in each quarter of the year. A = March; B = June; C = September and D = December. Then two digits of numerals following these letters are indicative of the last two numbers of the year. Ten represents 2010; 15 for 2015; 30 for 2030, etc. So, C20 means September 2020 as expiry date. A25 means March 2025, D45 means December 2045. Cylinders ought not to be used after these dates and gas filling stations should not refill such bottles.
“However, most cylinders in Nigeria only show date of testing, leaving you with visual determination as to when the cylinder is too weak for pressure. Tell me sincerely, who has ever checked your cooking gas cylinder, talk more of rejecting it,” he concluded.
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