The recent death of a 45-year-old non-Bhutanese man in an explosion of a carbide gas cylinder at Wangdi engineering automobile workshop in Phuentsholing has raised safety concerns.

Workers at the automobile workshops claim that although most automobile workshops in Phuentsholing use the dissolved acetylene (DA) gas for welding, few are using the carbide gas system.

Carbide gas system used for welding is a conventional method of mixing carbide and water to produce gas for welding. Correct quantity of carbide and water has to be inserted into the cylinder.

A manager at one of the workshops said that carbide gas system is dangerous. “An expert has to use this carbide system,” he said. “Overuse of carbide or water could both lead to misbalanced pressure in the cylinder.”

He also said that the cylinder is locally made across the border and does not have standard quality. “There are chances the pressure inside the weak cylinder could lead to an explosion.”

The manager said that the pressure should also be maintained occasionally when in use.

Kuensel found that a workshop near the sewerage was using the carbide system. However, the workshop also had DA gas system.

The workshop owner and staff said that the carbide system is used in emergencies when the DA gas exhausts unexpectedly.

The workshop attendants also claimed that they change the cylinder and keep everything updated.

Meanwhile, it is the cheaper price why workshop owners prefer carbide gas cylinders from across the border than DA gas.

The cost of filling a DA cylinder is Nu 1,500 and the security amount of the cylinder is Nu 8,000. A carbide gas cylinder ranges between Nu 2,500 to Nu 3,600.

Following the explosion, Wangdi engineering workshop has invested in a new DA system. “We just bought it today,” the workshop’s proprietor Tobgyal Norbu said.

The proprietor also said that his workshop, one of the oldest in Phuentsholing has been using the carbide gas system for about three decades now. “Such problems did not arise before.”

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing