The Irish Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (ILPGA) – Testimonial
Mr. Ed McDonnell, secretary of the ILPGA, explains why the Irish LPG industry embraces the standardization process.
What is it about the LPG industry that attracted it to become involved in standardization?
The nature of the LPG product, a pressurised flammable gas, necessitates the processes associated with it being highly regulated. It is difficult for those regulations to address the finer details of the processes and this is where standards play a vital role. Standards specify in detail the requirements for equipment/practices. These standards are written with the participation and full agreement of the authorities, who are also involved in the standardization process. The standards set down a level playing pitch for all to participate in the industry.
When did the LPG industry get involved in standardization and what are some of its successes?
The ILPGA members have been involved in standardization since the early 1980s. The first standards developed were indigenous Irish Standards covering areas such as cylinder design, cylinder storage and gas installations. In the late 1980s, it became apparent that the focus of standardization was moving away from national standards towards European and International standards. It was obvious, too, that these new standards would displace the national ones as the process in place requires that conflicting national standards must be withdrawn and replaced with European standards. This fact, together with the introduction of more European and International regulations, persuaded the LPG industry to devote increased resources in CEN and ISO standardization to ensure the national position was included and reflected in the standards.
Initially, the industry was spending a lot of time attending broad agenda committee meetings of CEN and ISO. The issues which were of specific interest to the LPG industry were dealt with as part of broader work programs in a number of committees, e.g.:
- CEN/TC 23 deals with all types of cylinders.
- CEN/TC 69 deals with valves
- CEN/TC 54 deals with tanks
This led to a requirement for industry representatives to attend meetings whose agenda addressed issues which were outside the interest scope of the LPG industry. To address this issue and to cut down on the number of committees that needed to be attended, the industry lobbied for a dedicated LPG CEN committees and the Irish LPG industry provided the first Chairman of one of these committees, CEN/TC 286. The Irish LPG industry has since been at the forefront of European LPG standardization for almost 20 years now. The two CEN LPG committees (CEN/TC 181 and CEN/TC 286) are responsible for 45 dedicated LPG standards in Europe to date.
Why does the ILPGA continue to devote considerable resources to standardization?
The answers are simple. The industry considers it extremely useful to be in a position to:
- have good quality robust procedures in the form of Standards to run the activity of what is, after all, a highly regulated industry,
- have good working relationships with authorities (local and international),
- secure industry solutions to technical/standards issues through cooperation with colleagues and competitors alike,
- interface with standardisers and industry specialists in Ireland and in other countries, some of whom are leading international experts.
The standardization community is a broad based grouping of experienced industry experts, trade associations, consumer groups and national authorities to mention just a portion of participants. Such groups can and do debate technical issues on standards but also discuss related issues such as interpretation of National and International regulations. This network is very useful as it offers a forum for our industry to work in partnership with all interested parties.
It is at this level that industry has the opportunity to influence Regulators, through Standards, to produce regulations that are practicable and not unnecessarily onerous. Otherwise consumers may be required to bear extra cost with no associated extra safety benefit.
Would the ILPGA recommend other industry sectors to become involved in the standardization process?
The ILPGA experience with the standardization process to date has been very positive. The process has assisted the industry in keeping fully up to date with all relevant regulations and provided a mechanism through standards of demonstrating compliance. The standardization networks have proved an invaluable resource that, used effectively, can yield benefits for any industry sector.
One example of the benefit to both the industry and consumers was the introduction of safety devices to prevent the release of unburned gases on hobs and cookers. This debate originated at an NSAI standard meetings where the proposal was prepared for submission by Ireland at the European level where the proposal gained the support of other European Member States. It is now a requirement for all manufacturers of these appliances to incorporate these safety devices on all gas hobs and cookers. This can only be seen as a success story as it may not have been so readily achieved in Ireland and Europe without industry participation and involvement. This particular initiative will ultimately saves lives.
There are also the monetary benefits to be considered. One specific example from our industry viewpoint was the reduction of the frequency of testing of LPG cylinders from once every ten years to once every fifteen years. The extension in periodicity, which is specific to the LPG industry, has resulted in a significant cost savings. By involvement with the Regulators, it was possible for the industry to demonstrate that the level of safety was not being compromised by this decision. In fact, it is almost certain to say that this could not have been implemented without the agreement through consensus obtained with the Regulators, through the use and support of standards.
Through the specification of standards compliance as a procurement requirement, our industry has been able to ensure that all the equipment used and supplied meets our quality and safety expectations.
One final note, however: it should be borne in mind that the returns from participation in standardization are not instantaneous but are achieved over a longer timeframe.