LP Gas Concerns > Cylinder Exchange Cabinets
Considerations for Proper Cylinder Exchange Cabinets
Numerous inspections and increasing consumer complaints indicate that the rapidly expanding cylinder exchange business needs to devote more time and effort to compliance with mandatory safety requirements. Following is a list of frequent violations with a brief explanation of each item:
- Lack of protection from vehicular traffic. This requirement changed substantially in 2017 because of new LP-Gas Code wording. Cabinets that are "lockable ventilated enclosures of metal exterior construction" do not need additional protection. If the cabinet does not meet those criteria, not common in North Carolina, then some form of protection is required. Curbing may be accepted as protection only if it is a minimum of 6 inches in height and 36 inches from the cabinet. Otherwise, steel posts set in concrete and filled with concrete or substantial wood timbers (such as railroad ties - see our position statement, linked below for railroad tie information) shall be set close enough together so vehicles cannot get between them and far enough from the cabinet to not interfere with the cabinet doors, but in no case closer than 2 feet. The steel posts shall be at least 4 inches in diameter for protection from normal automobile and light truck traffic. If the traffic is heavier vehicles, then the protective posts shall be larger as necessary to furnish protection. The installer will have to show that wooden protection will be effective. If traffic movement is parallel to the curb, then spacing less than 36 inches from the curb may be acceptable, depending on the proximity of common and/or possible turning areas. Please contact us for a case-by-case evaluation. See also our position statement, revised for 2017, on protection from vehicles.
- Cabinet not located with 5 foot clearance from openings into buildings and from sources of ignition. This distance increases to 10 feet if the store has only one doorway commonly used by the public. This distance is the minimum distance. It is not approximate and it is not negotiable. Note: If the cabinet was installed prior to July 1, 1998, then the 10-foot separation requirement for a single door does not apply.
- Inappropriate plugging of service valve of any tanks, full or empty. All cylinders with old POL-only connections must have an effective seal, such as a plug, cap, or approved quick-closing coupling, in place whenever the cylinder is not connected for use. Spare plugs need to be stocked for cylinders taken in exchange which do not have plugs. All cylinders equipped with OPD valves or older Acme-threaded valves must NOT be plugged, as this defeats the built-in safety shut-off device. A dust cap is permitted on these valves. You must train those operating the exchange cabinets about how to determine the type of valve and which must be plugged.
- Cylinders out of qualification date set out for exchange. DOT cylinders shall not be refilled unless they are properly qualified or requalified for LP-Gas service in accordance with DOT regulations. A cylinder just recently out of date may be sold or exchanged, as it was probably refilled within the qualification date requirements. An out-of-date cylinder may be transported and used as long as it is safe to do so, but may not be refilled.
- Failure to identify storage cabinet or rack with name of cylinder exchange company. We suggest that the exchange cabinet be identified as to the supplier in case there are problems they must know about. Such identification is not required. Identifying the supplier is good business and is important in notifying customers and inspectors of who to contact for service or to correct problems.
The previously-listed topics are a partial summary of the requirements for cylinders awaiting use, sale, or exchange. For complete information concerning these cylinders, see NFPA 58, Chapter 8. Certain installations must have increased separations and/or fire extinguishers. Cylinder exchange companies must also comply with Section 9.3 of NFPA 58 regarding transportation of cylinders.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture LP-Gas Inspection Program will be inspecting cylinder exchange cabinets to ensure compliance with the listed concerns. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Last updated April 10, 2017