Fire Safety Risks When Working With Fuels

Petrol stations inherently assume the risk of potential fire incidents by handling, working with, and selling fuel and fuel products. Petrol, diesel, and LPG are all highly flammable chemicals that are bought and sold at your service station each day.

Due to the risks inherent in storing and handling these substances, extreme care should be taken when working around and with these products. Understanding the common safety risks, and having site-specific emergency guidelines will help your petrol station both avoid incidents, and be prepared in the event of a fuel related fire.

Ignition Risks

Most fires that occur at petrol stations are caused by fuel coming into contact with an ignition source. Identifying and understanding potential sources of ignition will help you prevent fires from occuring at your service station.

One of the most common ignition sources found at most petrol stations come in the form of static electricity sparks. These sparks can happen spontaneously and are especially common in cold, dry weather. To prevent fires stemming from static electricity, remain conscious of fuel in the form of both liquid and gas (vapour), and ensure that no ignition sources are present near or around fuel.

Customer Risk

While you can control the actions of your service station personnel and employees, ensuring that customers are not partaking in risky or irresponsible behaviors at your business can be more difficult. Vigilance and monitoring is required to make sure that your customers are following important safety regulations as displayed on the forecourt.

To promote customer awareness and lower the risk of incident, proper signage should be placed prominently around your forecourt and business. Signs should be clear and visible, and easily viewable from any dispenser. The following signage is recommended:

  • Stop engine
  • No smoking
  • No flames or pilot lights
  • No mobile phones

Classes of Fires

Different types of fires are caused by different materials, and are divided into separate classes. Understanding the classes of fires and the risks presented not only by fuel materials, but by all potentially flammable substances at your petrol station, can help your business to avoid fire emergencies. The classes of fires are as follows:

  • Class A – Fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper, or textiles.
  • Class B – Fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel or oils
  • Class C – Fires involving gases.
  • Class D – Fires involving metals.
  • Class E – Fires involving live electrical apparatus.
  • Class F – Fires involving cooking oils such as in deep-fat fryers.

While the majority of fires that occur at a petrol station are Class B fires, understanding all types of fires is integral to preventing them and minimising your business’s risk.

Site-Specific Emergency Plans

Avoiding ignition sources and offering clear customer guidance can help you avoid some of the largest risk factors in fire emergencies. However, no petrol station can fully guarantee that an incident will not happen at their site. Because all petrol stations are different in layout and individual risk, you should be aware of and trained to follow the specific emergency plan in place for your workplace.

Additionally, you should have ready access to a site plan that identifies and explains the hazardous areas of your petrol station. This plan should include a designated location to serve as your workplace’s emergency meeting point. Any employee who is unsure or unaware of the site-specific emergency plan for their workplace should speak immediately and directly to the site manager or employer.

While the risk of fire is always real at petrol stations and fuel businesses, being aware of risk factors can help you prevent potential incidents. Proper employee training, awareness, and emergency action plans in case of emergency will go a long way in protecting both workers and customers, and ensure site safety during operation.

It is the petrol station owners legal responsibility to ensure all staff are trained in how to respond in the event of a fire emergency. ServoPro Members have free access to ServoSkills, our online training course for petrol station employees.

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