Acetylene is the most flexible oxy-fuel gas and is used across multiple welding and metal cutting applications. Put simply, there is no direct replacement for acetylene. When handled, stored and transported correctly, acetylene is perfectly safe and has been invaluable to industry for over one hundred and sixty years.
From 2003 until November 2012, and only in the UK, the Fire & Rescue Services had what has since proven to be a somewhat excessive precaution for dissolved acetylene cylinders, which involved water cooling them for at least 24 hours, during which a hazard zone of 200 metres radius was usually maintained throughout. Whilst very safe, this often led to major disruption, which, in turn, prejudiced safety away from the incident.
Their task was to find out, with certainty – after how many hours of realistic cooling to a dissolved acetylene cylinder can we be sure that no decomposition can be ongoing and therefore that it is safe to close out an incident completely? The results from the BAM work may be summarised as follows:-
The BAM work was discussed extensively with the Fire & Rescue Service and with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) expert panel of consultant Professors. A recommendation was accepted that one hour cooling, followed by a further one hour monitoring as a precaution would be more than prudent. This agreed with the empirical evidence found at real incidents.
The Executive Summary report on BAM’s work may be viewed by clicking here and BAM’s Opinion on the revised one hour plus one hour protocol may be viewed by clicking here. The findings of the BAM research is of global significance, providing a scientific basis to the procedures adopted by our Fire and Rescue Service, and we trust that the new UK protocol may be adopted in other countries too and thereby mitigate needless disruption.
The findings from the BAM research were incorporated into the guidance, which advised a 1 hour cooling, plus 1 hour monitoring protocol for acetylene cylinders which have been exposed to direct fire.
This Fire Service guidance format was subsequently updated in early 2018 (but the 1+1 hour protocol for acetylene cylinders remains unchanged) and information on managing hazardous materials is now available to the Fire & Rescue Service within their National Operational Guidance Programme. The National Operational Guidance is extremely detailed and is of limited interest to other than operational firefighters. It can be viewed by clicking here and here.
The Acetylene Safety (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations (SI 2014 No. 1639) came into force on 1 October 2014. They include a very important new provision which MANDATES the use of flashback arrestors on oxy-acetylene sets.
This document defines the principles of safe practice for the storage of gas cylinders and bundles. It promotes the use of an external store, in a secure location, with good natural ventilation and away from any sources of ignition.Go To Download Page
Provides guidance on the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) which require all sites, where there are gas containers, to undertake a risk assessment and, where necessary, to implement appropriate controls.Go To Download Page
This document lays out a model risk assessment. Included are a series of tabulated risk assessment sheets which address the main aspects of the storage, transportation and use of oxygen / fuel cylinders. A copy is also provided in a format that allows the user to modify the contents to suit their specific needs.
Where this document is downloaded as an Excel Spreadsheet, the user has the option of amending the contents and, as such, it is beyond the direct control of the BCGA. In this situation, the user takes full responsibility for the contents of the document.
Please see the TIS 15 below to download the amendable Excel Spreadsheet.
This document provides technical information on the different properties of acetylene and propane to help the user make an informed choice when choosing a fuel gas for welding, cutting and allied processes.Go To Download Page
BCGA Leaflet L6 provides advice on the actions to take in the event of a fire on or near gas cylinders.Go To Download Page
BCGA publish several publications providing advice on managing gas cylinders. All BCGA publications are accessible via the Publications page.