Tank sleeves revisited

April 1, 2008 By    

A few months ago I wrote an article called “To sleeve or not to sleeve.” It generated a great response.

Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

First, some industry leaders dismissed the credibility of my evidence that plastic sleeves promoted rust and put off looking into the matter for at least six months. Then I received a letter from a New England marketer who asserted experiencing leaking sleeved tanks at refill locations.

“I really enjoyed your article on cylinder sleeves,” he wrote. “We have been struggling with this issue for a couple of years. We actually sprayed leak detector on the top of the sleeve and watched the bubbles around the top edge of the sleeve from pinholes at the weld due to rust.”

Armed with this new evidence of leaking tanks and rust issues related to sleeves, I re-approached NPGA leadership on this issue and they reluctantly agreed to establish a task force.

Shortly thereafter, the editor of this magazine received a letter signed by numerous exchange manufacturers challenging my position and concerns about rust created by tank sleeves. The letter was in the January issue of LP Gas magazine, and I encourage all of you to read it.

The letter clearly states, “In addition, plastic sleeves on cylinders do not cause cylinders to flash rust.”

They fail to explain why the industry has not incurred this “flash rust” on cylinders without sleeves for the previous 55 years. One look at the belt of rust under a sleeved tank and the rust residue on the inside of the sleeve clearly shows the top and bottom do not have the same issues.

More than one marketer wrote their state executive suggesting a second letter be written to the editor supporting my initial concerns, related specifically to their experience with rusted sleeved cylinders every day at vendor and refill locations. I appreciate their honest concerns. These folks feel they are left holding the bag when asked to inspect and fill sleeved cylinders.

Finally, the task force met in March to discuss the issues and merit of concerns. Amazingly, there were those who spoke to abstain from addressing the issue, claiming it was not a safety concern. There were also passionate advocates for investigating cause, origin and prevention on behalf of consumers, vendors, cylinder refillers and the liability insurance providers who insure all who sell and handle those products.

It is my understanding that PERC funding will be sought to educate refillers on their obligations to inspect sleeved cylinders prior to refilling.

I question asking marketers who do not exchange cylinders with plastic sleeves to fund education related to manufacturing and marketing processes that expose consumers and their employees to safety concerns.

A marketer from Minnesota called recently to share his story and pictures of receiving a rusted, leaking sleeved tank at his refill location, to be refilled. He rejected the tank and told the customer to bring it back to the exchange manufacturer where he initially bought it.

I feel it is an unfair burden for refillers to have to deal with sleeved tank problems. Technically, they are required to remove the sleeve during inspection. This also means removal of the safety warning and may involve reconditioning the tank or, at a minimum, incurring the expense of replacing the safety warning information.

The responsibility of those issues should rest with those who refurbish the tanks and initially put the sleeves on. I am disappointed in their failure to acknowledge or take responsibility for a problem they obviously created.

When it comes to safety, I will not apologize for promoting consumer safety, being concerned over refiller employee safety or the liability exposures related to repercussions from rusted and leaking tanks. I don’t feel we should wait for an accident to happen to address the problem.

I encourage those of you who feel safety leadership is an obligation to protect and preserve the good name of the propane industry to write me with your thoughts on this issue.

Jay Johnston (www.thesafetyleader.com) is a business consultant, safety writer, inspirational speaker and leadership facilitator specializing in strategic insurance and safety management. He can be reached at
Jay@thesafetyleader.com or 952-935-5350.

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