Owing to the disturbing menace of recurring incidence of gas explosions in Ghana, government has come up with some very urgent rules, regulations and orders that will ensure the safety of Ghanaians while they work to permanently put in place measures that will forestall such occurrences in the future.
Following the latest of the gas explosions in Ghana, a cabinet meeting was held during which the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo issued out the orders. They include:
1. Implementation of Cylinder Recirculation Model
The President ordered that the Cylinder Recirculation Model of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Distribution replace the current practice of supplying gas to retailers and consumers by dispensing it into their individual containers at different spots in the town. This simply means that LPG Bottling Plants will be sited away from congested commercial and population centers and will procure, brand, maintain and fill empty cylinders to be distributed to consumers and households through retail outlets. This order the president said, must be fully implemented within one year.
The order further stated that low risk stations will be designated for the supply of gas to vehicles with improved safety standards. Among the plans underway to ensure safety at this vehicle filling stations, is a temporary ban on onsite offloading of LPG until a rule that mandates the presence of fire service personnel during every offloading exercise to ensure that all fire safety rules are adhered to, is enforced.
2. Inspection and Enforcement of Regulation
President Nana Addo also ordered the immediate inspection of all gas stations and the vigorous enforcement of existing regulations by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA).
3. Immediate Halting of Unlicensed Distributors
The President ordered the immediate review of the current licensing regime to ensure that only those with demonstrable capacity and competence engage in the LPG distribution business. A swift implementation of this order has already seen to the permanent close down of about 21 filling stations by the NPA, on the grounds of not possessing all the required licences for operation.
4. Compulsory Training and Certification of Oil Staff
According to the President, a mandatory training and certification of the staff of Regulators, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and LPG Marketing Companies should be quickly instituted to ensure the safe handling of LPG.
5. Review All Safety Protocols
Concerned bodies were also instructed to review the safety protocols along the entire value chain through the combined efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), National Fire Service (NFS), Town and Country Planning Department of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Factories Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations;
6. Assessment of Gas Station Risks within 30 Days
A task force has been deployed to assess the risk that our current LPG infrastructure poses in terms of public health and safety. High risk stations will be immediately closed down, in accordance with relevant law and without regard to any political or special interests. This the President said, must be completed within a maximum of 30 days. As at last weekend, the NPA said it has completed the assessment of 46 stations, with 25 of them issued with a “clean bill of health” and the other 21 permanently shut down.
7. Revival and Enforcement of Standards and Guidelines
nana Addo also ordered the immediate incorporation of standards and guidelines developed by Ghana Standards Authority on the handling, storage and distribution of LPG and other petroleum products as technical regulations to strengthen the enforcement regime.
8. Employment of Safety Auditors
The NPA was also ordered to immediately recruite 200 safety auditors to join the staff of the Factories Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to check regularly on all stations to ensure full compliance with safety standards and practices.
9. Prosecution of Offenders
Expedition of action by the Fire Service and the Police Service of on-going investigations was also ordered. Per the order, any operator or regulatory official, against whom any act of criminal negligence is established, will face the full rigors of the law.
10. Temporary Ban on Filling Station Construction
An indefinite ban was also placed on erecting any form of gas plant, with ongoing constructions halted. It ordered the immediate cessation, until further notice, of all construction of facilities intended for use as gas or petroleum retail stations.
Gas Explosions in Ghana
The issue of gas explosions in Ghana is now better described as shameful instead of sad, due to the frequency of such occurrences. Available statistics reveal that aside the June 3 twin disaster of fire and flood, 8 other incidents of gas explosions have occurred in the country in the past three years (2014-2017), claiming many lives, injuring more and destroying innumerable properties.
The latest explosions at the Atomic Junction is the third to occur just this year, after the Takoradi explosions and the one at Tulip Inn Hotel. Reports also show that 35% of the over 300 burn cases recorded at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital this year , were from gas explosions.
A medical practitioner in a recent interview bemoaned the fact that lives lost in gas explosions in Ghana is grossly under-reported. According to him, the media usually focus on the immediate or soon-after losses, not knowing that a lot of injured persons later lose their lives several days, weeks and even months after the accidents.
A typical example is the Labadi gas explosion which occurred on the 22nd of December, 2016, burning 5 persons to death at the spot and injuring about 30 other persons. However, a sister to the Trade Minister, Alan Kyeremanten later lost her life on the 11th of January, 2017 as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. It is obvious that her subsequent death may not have come to public notice, if she was just an ordinary Ghanaian.
Howbeit, Ghanaians are sincerely hoping that the above regulations and other necessary ones will be fiercely enforced to ensure that gas explosions becomes a story of the past in the country.