Cylinder Inspections and Ethics

A recent article raises the question as to whether or not Title 49.107.803 can be applied to inspectors in dive shops providing annual visual inspections to SCUBA cylinders.

This code is specific to the approval process for third party inspectors, requalifying facilities and cylinder manufacturers. While it may not specifically combine selling and inspecting, it does provide focus for some questionable inspection and sales activities. The statement that cylinder inspections being conducted by those who sell cylinders is “almost prohibited” is not completely applicable but may be questionable in some cases.

PSI-PCI receives calls and emails almost weekly describing a facility or person that has condemned a cylinder or cylinders only to quickly tell the customer there are new cylinders on sale this week. The more appropriate question should be “is the cylinder condemned with proper justification in accordance with Federal requirements or a sales tactic?” Many cylinders are erroneously condemned by non-trained persons in the dive industry. To Captain Calhoun’s point, PSI-PCI is aware of cylinders that are condemned by persons citing a myriad of unfounded reasons unaware there are Federal requirements for cylinder condemnation. Condemning cylinders for the sake of a sale (or simply ignorance) is unethical and constitutes nothing less than fraud.

The aluminum cylinder cracking issue came to light in the early 80’s. The dive industry has been slow to understand the facts surrounding the actual issue.  They were however quick to learn that cylinder sales can be brisk by citing the perceived danger.  Many dive business employees use the adage “we are using industry standards to be safe” which simply do not exist. Industry practices may exist but are wildly interpreted and carried out by individuals who assume they are knowledgeable following a “Salty Sea Dog’s” method of inspecting cylinders; after all, he has inspected cylinders for 25 years! We often hear from those less informed that aluminum cylinders should not be used after 10, 15 or even 20 years.  Aluminum cylinders do not have a limited lifespan! They are valid for continued service as long as they pass required inspections and tests in accordance with the Federal Government. Aluminum cylinders produced for the diving industry in 1972 are valid for service today as long as they pass required inspections and tests. To Fred Calhoun’s point regarding longevity, there are steel cylinders (produced identically to SCUBA cylinders) in the carbonic industry from the late 1890’s still in service.

To properly inspect cylinders the Federal Government, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Compressed Gas Association, Department of Transportation and cylinder manufacturers all require formal function specific training in conjunction with Hazmat Handler (yes pressurized scuba cylinders are Hazmat) training including fill station operator training. PSI-PCI has dedicated 28 years teaching those working with high pressure cylinders to properly inspect cylinders to the aforementioned standards.  NASA, The FBI, all branches of the US military and several foreign military units, The Secret Service, dive facilities and many individuals follow the PSI-PCI 18 step inspection protocol daily.  Each day we assist inspectors with second opinions and related questions to ensure proper inspections and tests are being conducted.

Who inspects your life support equipment and what standards do they use? Formally trained inspectors condemn cylinders using proper justification eliminating the ethics issues.

About the author:  Mark A. Gresham is the owner and CEO of Professional Scuba Inspectors, Inc. (aka Professional Cylinder Inspectors, Inc.) He is considered by many to be the leading authority on the regulations applicable to visual cylinder inspection.  For more information or questions, contact PSI-PCI.

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