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Stark safety message after gas regulator causes explosion at holiday cottage

A holiday cottage in Alton was reduced to rubble after a faulty gas regulator caused an explosion last year.

The incident happened on 29 December on Bradley Lane in Threapwood. We got a call shortly after 12.40pm and sent local crews to the scene.

By 1.30pm, the remaining hotspots and flames had been put out. The building had been completely destroyed by the blast, leaving a woman with serious burns at the scene.

She was rushed to hospital for treatment and, thankfully, went on to make a recovery.

Since then, we’ve been working closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to find out what caused the explosion, how it happened and what can be learned from it.

We can now confirm that it happened because of a faulty liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) single-stage regulator. Importantly, these devices are actively used across the UK to supply gas to all sorts of static buildings, like caravans and mobile homes, and carry fatal consequences if they aren’t properly looked after.

What are LPG regulators?

Essentially, they control the pressure of gas that is supplied to different devices in the home, like cookers and heaters.

They reduce the gas pressure to a low, safe level to fuel these appliances. However, if they’re not working properly, they can’t regulate the pressure and result in dangerous amounts of flammable gas being released.

If you’re using an LPG regulator, how do you make sure it’s safe?

Manufacturers and gas companies advise that regulators must be replaced if they are over 10-years-old, or if they show visibly signs of damage or degradation.

In this incident, the gas regulator was 13-years-old.

Importantly, annual appliance gas safety checks don’t account for the age or position of the single stage regulator valve, so people need to be aware of the risks.

When they’re installed, the vent must be facing downward, not upward. This is because it can easily become blocked overtime, especially if they’re exposed to the weather, causing the regulator to stop working.

The gas industry also recommends using regulators that are fitted with an Over-Pressure Shut-Off (OPSO).

As it says, these attachments stop the regulators from releasing dangerous amounts of gas if they aren’t working properly.

Whilst they might cost an extra £20, it can be the difference between life and death.

Station Manager Leigh Richards, who dealt with the fire investigation into this incident, said: “This incident clearly shows how dangerous gas regulators can be if people aren’t aware of the risks involved and what they need to do to look after them.

“We don’t want to blame the owner of this building for what happened and we know that it’s not widely known how seriously things can go wrong if LPG regulators aren’t working properly. This explosion happened at the flick of a light-switch and could’ve easily resulted in someone losing their life.

“This accident happened despite the cooker having had a full annual gas safety check.”

“You might be using a regulator now to supply gas to your caravan or holiday home, and understanding how to properly maintain them is key is making sure we keep communities safe.

“All LPG regulators should say on them when they were manufactured. If you don’t know how old yours is, please check and get it replaced if it’s over 10-years-old or is showing visible signs of wear and tear.

“If the vent is facing upward, call an engineer and get it fixed.

“For the sake of an extra £20, please consider installing an OPSO to make sure you’re not running the risk of an explosion.

“By spreading the message and checking you’ve taken the right steps to stay safe, we can hopefully avoid anything like this from happening again in the future.”

HSE Principal Gas Engineer, Steve Critchlow, said “We hope this shocking incident highlights to the general public the safety critical nature of their LPG regulators, and that it is important to install them in accordance with manufacturer’s requirements, and to replace them when they become aged or damaged.

“Getting a gas installation regularly inspected and maintained by a qualified Gas Safe Registered engineer is important to ensure the safety of their homes.”


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