Industry calls for tougher measures on gas handling

October 13, 2017
Source: Bernard Yaw ASHIADEY/thebftonline.com/Ghana
Industry calls for tougher measures on gas handling

  • 120 deaths, 635 injuries in 10 years
  • Absence of rigorous standards and regulation blamed

The nation has since 2007 recorded 120 deaths and 635 injuries from gas explosions, aside from the unquantified economic and social costs running into millions of Ghana cedis.

The latest incident at Mansco LPG filling station near Atomic Junction in Accra sent shock waves across the country, with various pressure groups asking for a tougher regulatory regime.

The number of deaths and injuries is contained a report by the Institute for Energy Security (IES), an energy think-tank.

This data - which focuses solely on gas explosions, excluding other fuel station explosions - does not include the 150 lives lost due to the fuel station explosion on June 3, 2015 at Circle, Accra.

Out of the 22 incidents recorded so far, the data shows that the Greater Accra Region accounts for more than 50 percent of deaths and injuries - Central Region coming in second with four and the Ashanti and Western Regions following with two incidents each, and Brong Ahafo recording one.

The IES is thus calling for stringent measures from regulatory institutions such as the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The IES, in a statement signed by its Principal Research Analyst, Richmond Rockson, noted that the frequency and impacts of the explosions clearly manifest the absence of rigorous standards and regulations associated with LPG handling within the Ghanaian downstream petroleum sector.

“It is therefore necessary for the regulatory bodies within the sector to move beyond the rhetoric to save this avoidable and embarrassing phenomenon. Any time a gas explosion has occurred, the NPA - together with its allied agencies - is quick to come out with reports on the incident’s cause, and proceed further to assure Ghanaians of making sure the explosions are a thing of the past. However, one promise begets one more avoidable explosion,” the statement said.

The Atomic Junction gas explosion, which occurred on Saturday, October 7, has taken at least seven lives and injured over 130 persons.

To the IES this could have been avoided, if regulatory bodies had acted on the recommendations of previous explosions and beyond the promises. “The IES is calling on the NPA and related bodies to institute reforms that are ‘collecting dust on drawing-boards’ in the handling of LPG in the country,” it said.

The reforms, IES noted, must go beyond banning the filling of LPG bottles at retail sites to include the appropriate siting of LPG retail stations; consistent and effective monitoring of LPG sites; and stringent regulatory and licencing regimes.

The IES also encouraged the NPA not to tolerate any form of resistance and unnecessary interference likely to come from persons with parochial interests in its quest to bring about the needed reforms. 

“We urge the general public to support the regulatory bodies in implementing the needed reforms, for the sake of lives and properties lost and persons injured in the current and past explosions,” it said.

The view from the GFPSPA

The Ghana Fire Protection Service Providers Association (GFPSPA), in a statement, also condemned the laxity in the regulatory environment, which it believes compromises the security of all Ghanaians.

The GFPSPA called for a long overdue re-look at laws that regulate the security and safety industries, and noted the need for remedial action targetted at avoiding such incidents in Ghana.

The association also called for the identification and adoption of world-wide fire prevention and protection, fire containment, and firefighting systems such as firewalls for gas filling stations, fire suppression systems, sprinkler systems, hydrants with water and foam storage, and gas detectors and monitors which are installed with effective gas spillage control systems.

“Our association recommends the underpinning factors of public education and continuous awareness creation as relevant to the avoidance of future potential fire outbreaks,” it said, adding that owners of premises should take fire safety precautions seriously, right from homes to work places.