Why can’t I get my oxygen cylinder filled?
Several DAN members who own oxygen equipment have recently experienced difficulties in having their private oxygen cylinders refilled. In response to enquiries, they have received responses ranging from “the cylinders are unsafe” to “the cylinders do not meet national standards”. Whereas the first statement being incorrect (unless the cylinders are damaged, out of date or the filling station feels unsafe to fill the cylinder), the second appears to be due to a possible misinterpretation or lack of understanding of current South African legislation and Standards involving compressed gas cylinders. The purpose of this document is to provide you with the necessary background with which to respond to the concern and be able to suitably address them.
Whilst it remains the prerogative of breathing gas providers to refuse any cylinder for filling/transfilling, (and neither DAN nor you as owner can force them to accept privately owned oxygen or breathing gas cylinders – even the ones we have sold) we can arm you with the correct information in order to collectively reduce the confusion surrounding legislation and Standards affecting the way compressed gas cylinders for breathing gasses are to be managed.
Some necessary background: The “use” of high pressure cylinders (legally defined as transportable gas containers), such as SCUBA and oxygen cylinders, is regulated in South Africa under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993, as amended from time to time), and the incorporated Pressure Equipment Regulations (PER) and specific Standard, such as SANS10019 (Transportable pressure receptacles for compressed, dissolved and liquefied gases — Basic design, manufacture, use and maintenance). Despite, the OHS Act being written for occupational setting sand not necessarily with the recreational (non-occupational) diver in mind, it does however apply to the filling stations where you as an individual will obtain your gasses from and anybody providing training, or a service to others in the industry, which includes clubs, instructors and trainers.
Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993)
To provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety of persons in connection with the use of plant and machinery; the protection of persons other than persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work; to establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
The manufacture, importation and/or sale of a compressed gas cylinder is certainly covered by the Act, PER and associated Standards (SANS347, 10019, 1825). When a diver wants to have a compressed gas cylinder filled, either with air or oxygen, once again the Act applies, which is is very specific on who may fill cylinders and the legal requirements for so-called filling stations through the associated Standards. It is only the actual use of the cylinder by the private recreational diver that falls outside of the Act.
So what is it that I must comply with?
All high pressure, compressed gas cylinders, whether manufactured locally or imported, whether new or used, must comply with the requirements of latest SANS 10019 and SANS1825before they may be filled. This is not a new requirement and it applies to all portable gas containers. This is the reason, for example, why even the most colour-coordination-conscious divers are not permitted to have a set of pink cylinders…! So, what are these requirements?
SANS 10019 was produced to provide detailed guidance on how a cylinder should be designed, manufactured, tested, marked, inspected and maintained throughout its working life. Furthermore, it provides that only a person competent to fill a container shall do so. When it was drafted and revised, it drew on a multitude of international standards already in existence and proven over many years, so it does not advocate new or unnecessary requirements. However, for the average man in the street, it is somewhat difficult to interpret and leaves many people confused as to what they need to look out for, hence the inclusion for specific requirements for SCUBA and SCBA use as an Annex in the latest update of SANS10019
So why all the confusion?
Despite a written Act of law, clear regulations, a local standard, many excellent manufacturers of cylinders, a list of approved gas test station for the inspection of cylinders, and sufficient filling stations, we still have to consider two issues – both of which are relevant and acceptable in our country:
Firstly, a filling station is allowed to make their own, internal procedure and requirements as to what they are prepared to accept for filling, as long as it follows or is more stringent than the National requirements. Oxygen can obviously be dangerous if not handled correctly. Each company is therefor obliged to take responsibility for the safety of its employees and for those person in connection with the activities of persons at work, as is provided for in the OHS Act. This is what often leads to the blanket refusal to accept all private oxygen cylinders for filling. Similarly, a filling station is entitled to prefer certain configurations of cylinders, valves, thread types, seals and materials. In fact, SANS 10019 contains specific requirements for SCUBA cylinders, as well as the requirements for PIN Index valves for medical gas cylinders, up to and including 10 litre. If the filling station believes that a cylinder with e.g., a parallel thread is either difficult to service or presumed to pose any risk or danger to the health and safety of its employees (e.g. as a result of accidental re-assembly of cylinders and valves with similar looking, but incompatible components) it may choose to refuse accepting such an cylinder. (Remember that many cylinders are older than the revised SANS 10019 Standard, however older cylinders may still be used in South Africa, if they comply with the requirements of SANS 1825 and are thus allowed to be used as long as they are regularly inspected and tested, and have the manufacturing standard stamped on them.)
Secondly, the OHS Act, its Regulations as well as the Standard applies to employers, employees and users of filling equipment, in respect that such equipment falls within the ambit of the definition of pressure equipment and associated machinery. Although the Act does not apply to the private end user, being yourself, the recreational diver, liability for the negligent use of filling equipment cannot be excluded. While buyers, importers, commercial end-users or any other party in the chain, inspection companies and filling stations all fall within the strict ambit of the Act, it is quite possible to find cylinders that do not comply with the exact requirements of SANS 10019 in circulation.
Thirdly, you have to be the owner or have permission from the owner to have the cylinder filled by anyone other than the owner. This is particularly pertinent for the like of industrial and medical gasses, where the cylinder is the property of any of the industrial organisations in South Africa.
However, in general, cylinders produced or sold by reputable and known companies should meet all the design and safety requirements and we find that the non-compliances usually refer to a few pieces of information that have not been stamped onto the shoulder of the cylinder. This does not make them unsafe, but one has to again consider the position of the inspection or filling company – they need to know essential pieces of information and without a detailed manufacturer’s certificate, they can only rely on the information stamped onto the cylinder. Not only are these companies looking out for the Safety and interest of their employees and business as a legal entity, they are also looking out for your and the industries safety as a whole.
How do I find out if my cylinder does comply?
South Africa has a national approval system for inspection companies (Gast Test Stations), and even though this was changed a few years back (2000 onward), with the incorporation of an accreditation process through SANAS (South African National Accreditation System), you will find references from the Department of Employment and Labour and SANAS, approvals for companies offering these services (check the SANAS website). Note: All cylinders sold through DAN are manufactured and certified to international codes, are then inspected and certified under SANS 10019 by a local, approved gas test station in accordance with SANS1825, before being sold specifically for “oxygen use”. We not only comply with all the requirements, but also the intent of the law – that is to ensure safety and minimise risk.
If you have bought your cylinder elsewhere, you simply need to take your cylinder to any one of these approved gas test stations and ask them to check this for you. Of course, this should be done during your required regular inspections (“visual” or internal inspection) and as long as you make sure that the company is accredited and approved, you should be safe. You can check the current list of SANAS accredited gas test stations using the following link: www.sanas.co.za
, or download the inspection body listing at the top of the page, which was correct at time as indicated.
The important thing to know, as an owner of a cylinder, is that you are not required to do anything other than have your cylinder inspected by an approved inspection organisation and filled by a recognised filling station that will provide you with compliant breathing gas as applicable to your needs. The onus is on the filling station to make sure that your cylinder is “in date” (meaning that it has had its required regular inspections) and the test station during the statutory inspections, that all compliance issues are dealt with.
What do I do if it does not comply?
When informed by your inspection company, or by the company who you have asked to fill your cylinder, that your cylinder has a compliance issue, the onus would, of course, be on you as owner to have this rectified as soon as possible to avoid risk of injury to yourself or another diver using the cylinder? DAN would suggest that you approach the manufacturer (in South Africa the importer hold the liability and responsibility as the manufacturer) or seller to have the lack of compliance rectified in accordance with the relevant regulations and associated Standards.
Can anyone seize my cylinder?
The answer to this question is simply that no one is entitled to remove or withhold your cylinder. The can only refuse to fill it, and in the case of statutory inspection, despite being required under legislation to render your cylinder unserviceable if it fails inspection or does not meet the necessary requirements, the Standards does provided for a second opinion and the cylinder to be returned to the owner and the legal implications of their contemplated action be explained to them (They will not stamp the cylinder or re-attach the valve, but should issue a certificate indicating that the cylinder failed it’s inspection and indicate the reasons.
So what should I then do before I buy a cylinder?
When considering purchasing a new cylinder, always insist on a copy of the manufacturing certificate and declaration of conformity by the importer (Should state conformance to the requirements of the South African Pressure Equipment Regulations and associated Standards and for second hand cylinders at least a copy of the last statutory inspection certificate by an approved gas test station. Any such cylinder should be properly stamped, with the information required by the applicable design standard or ISO 13769, being the international standards setting certain requirements for information to be stamped on all breathing gas cylinders. The colour coding and valve fitted should thus also comply with SANS 10019 and SANS 039. Once again, all cylinders sold through DAN are manufactured and certified to international codes, are then inspected and certified under SANS 10019 by a local, approved gas test station and are then sold specifically for “oxygen use”.
Are cylinders sold by DAN safe?
Yes absolutely! And, as mentioned previously, all DAN cylinders comply with all the legislative requirements, and with the intent of the law – that is to ensure safety and minimise risk.
Against this general background a specific code of practice (which is to be read with the Act and Regulations) was laid down by the South African Bureau of Standards (“SABS”) in regard to the basic design, manufacture, use and maintenance of transportable metal containers for compressed gas. The SANS10019 Standard was published in September October 2001 as edition 7 (it started off life as SABS 019 prior) and also covers cylinders for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (“SCUBA”) such as tanks and oxygen cylinders used by DAN Members. The Standard is quite specific in regard to not only design and manufacturing criteria for oxygen cylinders but also in regard to issues such as repair, marking and filling of oxygen cylinders.
Such a person (a “filler”) shall be fully conversant with the relevant requirements of the Standard, must be satisfied that the container is suitable for the intended purpose, that the container is not due for periodic inspection or testing and that permission to fill the container has been granted by the owner thereof.
Furthermore, before filling any container, the filler must ensure that the cylinder complies with the requirements of an approved standard, that the cylinder, valve and safety devices, if any, must be in a good serviceable condition and the cylinder should not show any significant defects. In addition to carrying out an inspection as mentioned above, the filler shall ensure that no cylinder equipped with a foot ring is used for underwater service and that the cylinder is not due for periodic inspection and testing. If the cylinder has a detachable boot, the filler shall remove the boot and inspect the bottom of the cylinder for signs of external corrosion.
Once the cylinder is filled the filler shall keep a record of inter alia the following information: date of filling, name and address of the owner, its serial number, service type of the cylinder, type of gas filled into the cylinder and charging pressure, inspection performed and person that filled the cylinder.
Most importantly, we wish to assure you that this issue is not about anything inherently unsafe about the DAN cylinders at all; it is a purely an administrative and safety management issue. We can assure you that DAN oxygen cylinders meet international and local safety standards, are inherently safe, and we have complete confidence in them when handled appropriately – as is the case for all compressed gas systems.
Note: If you are the owner of a DAN cylinder, bought prior to this compulsory requirement, and you are informed that your DAN cylinder is missing items of information not stamped onto the shoulder, please contact us and we will have this remedied at no cost to you. Ironically, even with this all in place there may still be some facilities that insist that the parallel threads in the cylinder are not acceptable. This is an internal policy of certain companies and cannot be undone or overcome by reasoning.
With changes in worldwide Standards and international standardisation through the year additional stamping requirements have been implemented. This does not suggest that unstamped cylinders are suddenly unsafe, it just means that with the right information the additional requirements can be, after verification by a gas test station, stamped on the cylinder.
The OHS Act provides, amongst other things, for the protection of persons against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work. The OHS Act provides that the Minister of Employment and Labour may issue certain regulations which provide for the design, manufacture, use and maintenance of equipment, as well as the health or safety measures to be taken by employers or users as defined in the Act. The Pressure Equipment Regulations, or PER, and the incorporated Standards specifically deal with portable gas containers.
Definitions from the Act, Regulations and Standards:
“Gas system” means an assembly of tubes, pipes or similar ducts, fittings and valves for the reticulation, circulation and conveyance of a gas, excluding a pressure vessel or transportable gas container connected to the system.
“Machinery” means any article or combination of articles assembled, arranged or connected and which is used or intended to be used for converting any form of energy to performing work, or which is used or intended to be used, whether incidental thereto or not, for developing, receiving, storing, containing, confining, transforming, transmitting, transferring or controlling any form of energy.
“Pressure equipment” means a steam generator, pressure vessel, piping, pressure accessory and safety accessory, transportable gas container, and fire extinguisher and includes, but is not limited to, an accumulator, a hot-water geyser, and hyperbaric chambers.
“Transportable gas container” means any refillable vessel for the storage and conveyance of liquefied, dissolved or compressed gases, of water capacity from 0,5 litres to 3 000 litres.
“User”, in relation to plant or machinery, means the person who uses plant or machinery for his own benefit or who has the right of control over the use of plant or machinery, but does not include a lessor of, or any person employed in connection with, that plant or machinery.
Duties from the Act, Regulations and Standards:
Duties of manufacturers — The manufacturer shall have an obligation to ensure that all equipment designed and manufactured for use in the Republic shall be conformity assessed and subjected to the requirements set out in SANS 347.
Duties of importers and suppliers — Importers and suppliers shall ensure that pressure equipment sold complies with the requirements of the Pressure Equipment Regulations and shall assume the liability of the manufacturer in terms of these Regulations.
Conditions apply and you need to contact DAN to co-ordinate this. Tel: 011 266 4900 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org