The Department of Labour has mandated the Southern African Gas Association (SAGA) as the verification authority for natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas industrial equipment. All industrial equipment must conform to SANS 329 and SANS 347 which are used by SAGA industry stakeholders to ensure that all equipment manufactured in South Africa or imported and supplied to the marketplace conforms to the Pressure Equipment Regulations (PERs), and is suitable for gas usage.
The PER regulates all natural gas and liquefied petroleum as industrial equipment which meets a safety standard and will not be the cause of any health hazard or endangerment. These regulations set out the requirements regarding the design, manufacture, operation, repair, modification, maintenance, inspection and testing of pressure equipment. In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, the PER also addresses persons intending to work on gas systems to undergo specific training and to be registered with the South African Qualification and Certification Committee – Gas (SAQCC Gas) to obtain a licence to work on gas systems.
In an effort to curb unlawful gas installations, SAGA, under its mandate, has established the Safe Gas Equipment Scheme (SGES) to ensure that all industrial equipment installed in South Africa has been tested and conforms to an international or nationally acceptable standard that is safe and fit for intended purpose. All industrial equipment declared fit for use within gas systems will be provided with a SAGA Equipment Verification Permit, issued to the manufacturer or importer to prove conformity.
A registered gas practitioner will have to indicate and certify on the Certificate of Conformity (CoC) that the equipment installed has been confirmed fit for purpose by the SGES Committee. A permit number or the certificate must to be recorded and/or be attached to the CoC.
Should equipment that has not been awarded a Verification Permit be installed, the user who owns the equipment or who operates it is liable for any damage or injury that may occur. Accidents in non-verified equipment are inevitable; they are disasters just waiting to happen. The PER is a legally binding regulation, and therefore, those who do not conform with these regulations stand to be charged legally.
For example, on 17 February 2017, contractors at the Naval Base in Durban were assigned to work in the sewer pit when there was a sudden methane gas leakage in one of the underground installations. All three of the contractors died, along with three members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), who attempted to rescue them. The six men were exposed to methane gas and all died from inhalation, according to explains SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi. Methane gas is a principal component in natural gas. A leakage of this of this kind is deadly.
The military police and the SAPS are investigating conducting investigations with intent to hold someone liable for the six deaths in a homicide case. Consumers and end users of Gas have to understand that if their unlawful appliances or installation cause any harm, they are directly liable.