Businesses have been warned of the hazards of working with acetylene this week, and the importance of managing the risks associated with such a flammable gas.

The advice from Norwich Union came as the London Fire Brigade (LFB) continued its campaign for more stringent controls over businesses using acetylene cylinders. According to the LFB, a fire involving acetylene cylinders causes major disruption in the capital on average once a month.

Acetylene is commonly used in the motor, engineering and maintenance industries as the fuel gas in oxy-fuel sets for cutting, burning and welding.

Phil Grace, casualty risk manager at Norwich Union, said, $quot;Acetylene is inherently dangerous, and can cause asphyxiation, but the greatest risks are those of fire and explosion. Application of heat or mechanical shock to acetylene cylinders will cause spontaneous internal heating of the flammable gas. The decomposition of acetylene could cause the cylinder to become unstable and even explode.$quot;

$quot;With such potential hazards, businesses must undertake risk management and implement a number of key actions to reduce the risks of fire or explosions associated with acetylene cylinders.Above all, businesses should consider whether alternative procedures or fuel gases such as propane can be used. If acetylene cylinders are required, the business should consider the implications for business interruption, as the minimum evacuation time is 24 hours should a fire occur.$quot;

The LFB wants improved legislative controls over the safe use, signage and storage of acetylene gas cylinders, and greater awareness of the dangers posed by acetylene gas cylinders. $quot;Current legislation cannot be used to deal with this in an effective way,$quot; said a spokesperson for the Brigade. $quot;We believe a solution must be found to tackle this problem.$quot;