Keep the momentum on metal theft, urges trade body
GOVERNMENT cuts could prompt the return of problems with metal theft, according to a national trade body.
The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) says that while recent initiatives to tackle the crime have been successful, the removal of funding used to create a national taskforce could have a significant impact on safety and security.
In light of the cutbacks, the BCGA is urging industry and organisations to be vigilant in handling gas cylinders and to ensure they are disposed of in the correct manner.
Doug Thornton, chief executive of the BCGA, said: "The revised Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, supported by investment at the time by the Home Office in funding extra specialist regional British Transport Police co-ordinators, led to major successes in tackling metal theft crime.
"We strongly supported this approach as our major interest centred on addressing the loss of gas cylinders.
"However, the Government has since withdrawn the extra funding, the regional co-ordinators have left and the dedicated Fusion intelligence centre has since been closed.
"The criminal fraternity is not slow to recognise when the spotlight has gone out and we'd urge the Government to re-evaluate its position on metal theft and not fall back on the progress it has made in tackling the problem."
Mr Thornton added: "Gas cylinders, and the regulations which govern their manufacture, maintenance, testing and use have been developed over many decades to provide a very safe method of containing the wide-range of gases that required by industry and consumers - but when re-used or disposed of inappropriately they can present significant safety and environmental hazards.
"They are part of an hugely significant ‘invisible industry' with industrial, food and medical gases essential to the existence and well-being of thousands of people in the UK every day.
"Members of the BCGA operate in a highly-regulated industry and work together on technical, safety, health and environmental issues to achieve high standards of integrity and environmental care, both within their own and customers' working environments.
"The market for industrial gases in the UK is significant and, consequently, there are millions of gas cylinders in circulation.
"The vast majority of gas cylinders remain the property of the gas suppliers and, due to the sheer amount of resource invested, are supplied to users under a rental agreement.
"Most customers will return the cylinder to their gas supplier, but some don't and theft can be an issue. Occasionally they are stolen for the gases they contain, but more frequently for the scrap value of the metal.
"This is a disturbing trend which could increase with the focus moving away from tackling metal theft.
"Thieves have little concern over the safety of themselves or the people to whom they sell stolen cylinders and certainly won't care about releasing gases into the environment.
"So it's important that people are aware of their responsibilities in handling and processing gas cylinders correctly."
To support the safe return of gas cylinders, the BCGA works in partnership with the trade association for the LPG industry (UKLPG) on a programme to help civic amenity sites return cylinders to their correct owner.
Under the scheme gas cylinders are collected free-of-charge, within 15 working days, by authorised staff carrying appropriate identification and returned to their lawful owner. Advice can also be provided on the disposal of unbranded cylinders.
More details on the cylinder return initiative, including relevant contact telephone numbers, can be found on the BCGA website within the Gas Topics section, under the heading ‘Cylinder recovery and disposal.'
This press release is available to download.