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Petroleum - frequently asked questions


Are there any restrictions on the transport of petrol?

The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2004 (CDG), as amended by The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment (Amendment) Regulations 2005 require that petrol should be carried in UN approved containers (called Packages), which are properly stowed on the vehicle. The packages should be marked with the "flammable" diamond and with the UN number for petrol (UN 1203). Up to 333 litres may be carried as a "small load" which means that only general training needs to be given to the driver and that the vehicle only needs to carry 1 2kg fire extinguisher. These regulations do not affect purely private carriage.

Any vehicle involved in work activity and carrying more than 333 litres should be fitted with appropriate hazard warning signs and the driver should receive specialised training. The vehicle should carry specific fire extinguishers and a dangerous goods safety adviser should be appointed.

More information on carriage may be found at

Other more general health and safety legislation may apply in the work place. Ventilation to the vehicle should not be necessary provided that e.g. the generator is not operated or filled with petrol inside the van and the quantities of petrol are less than about 50 litres. You should consider the consequences of parking the vehicle outside in very hot and sunny weather which may give rise to greater evaporation of petrol than would normally occur.

As a general rule you should only carry the minimum amount of petrol necessary for the days work.

I carry diesel in my vehicle - what regulations do I have to comply with?

Diesel is now a ‘dangerous substance’ for the purposes of the Carriage Regulations. Its UN No. is 1202. The flashpoint of diesel is much higher than that of petrol but the basic carriage rules apply. In this case the "small load" threshold is 1000 litres.

Obviously if a vehicle caught fire or was involved in an accident which was carrying diesel it would contribute to a fire.


What is the limit of the amount of petrol I can store for domestic use?

The Petroleum Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc.) Regulations 1929 and the Petroleum Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 limit the amount of petrol that can be kept in a domestic garageor within six metres of a building (e.g. most domestic driveways). The limit is a maximum of two suitable metal containers each of a maximum capacity of ten litresĀ and two plastic containers (which have to be of an approved design) each of a maximum capacity of five litres. These limits also apply to any containers kept in a vehicle parked in the garage or on the driveway (but not to the internal fuel tank of the vehicle). Under no circumstances should the petrol containers be stored in the home itself.

Anyone who wishes to store larger quantities than this, or use larger containers, is required to notify the local Petroleum Licensing Authority (PLA) and to store the petrol in a prescribed manner set out in the 1929 Regulations mentioned above - enquirers who want further details should contact their local PLA. Storage of more than 275 litres (60 gallons) of petrol requires a petrol licence - again, contact the local PLA.

What are the restrictions on the amount of petrol I can store at my workplace?

With the introduction of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), there are no longer any specific controls over the storage of petrol at workplace sites other than filling stations. However, site operators will need to follow the requirements of DSEAR as petrol is a 'dangerous substance.' But as of 9 December 2002 they no longer require licences to keep petrol and no longer need to comply with the 1929 and 1982 regulations mentioned above about containers.

If the petrol is being stored in a place which is also a workroom for instance, then no more than 50 litres of highly flammable liquids should be stored. If the storage area is not a workroom, then DSEAR also requires, as far as is reasonably practicable, risks from dangerous substances are controlled and to mitigate the effects of any fire or explosion arising from dangerous substances. This should be done by performing a risk assessment, identifying means to reduce risks to a minimum. You should look at the storage area to ensure that:

What is the current situation regarding storage of petrol at filing stations?

The situation at filling stations remains essentially unchanged. Site operators still need to be licensed by their local Petroleum Licensing Authority. By 'filling station' we mean any site, which dispenses petrol by electrical or mechanical means into a vehicle, boat, ship or aircraft. It does not include sites where petrol is dispensed into vehicles etc. from a container. Filling stations can be either 'retail' - where petrol is on sale to the public, or 'non-retail' where petrol is dispensed into an organisation's own vehicles etc; common examples of this are car-hire firms, police stations and farms.

How should I store petrol in my workplace?

Cans and drums can provide an adequate means of storing petrol. When considering this method of storage you will need to take into account the method by which the petrol will be finally used or disposed of and whether the use of small containers increases the overall risks and handling problems during their filling and emptying.

The total amount of petrol that can be stored together in cans or drums will depend on the individual circumstances. The following paragraphs provide advice on dedicated storage areas or storerooms for up to 1000 litre (ie. 100 x 10 litre containers) of petrol. Where you need to store larger quantities than this you should consider installing tanks and referring to the more detailed advice in HS(G)51. You should not store more than 50 litres of petrol within a workroom and then only when it is kept in a properly labelled metal cabinet or bin with spillage retention.

Containers should, where reasonably practicable, be stored in the open air at ground level (singularly or in stacks). This enables leaks to be quickly seen and any vapours to be easily dispersed. They should not be stored on the roof of a building.

Where the best option of storing containers outside is not reasonably practicable they may be kept in suitable storerooms, preferably separate buildings, specifically designed for the purpose.

Other activities, including filling and emptying containers must not be carried out in the designated storage area. This is to prevent other activities that are a higher risk causing a fire, which then spreads to involve the larger quantities in storage.

How should I store petrol outoors at my workplace?

Petrol containers should be stored well away from other processes and storage areas. For quantities of petrol up to 1000 litres the minimum separation distance to occupied buildings, site boundaries, process areas, other flammable liquid storage tanks and fixed ignition sources is 2 metres. For other high-risk activities, such as those using heavy mobile plant or oxy-acetylene cutting equipment, the separation distance should be at least 4 metres. For larger quantities of petrol these distances will need to be increased and reference should be made to HS(G)51.

The separation distance can be reduced if either:

A firewall should only be provided on one side of the storage facility so as not to limit natural ventilation. The storage area should be constructed as an impervious surface and enclosed with a sill or low bund wall that will contain a volume that is at least 110% of the capacity of the largest container. (Note that environmental requirements may require a larger containment capacity). You may need to provide ramps over the sill to allow for easy access. The surface of the storage area should be slightly sloping so that any petrol leaks or rain water are directed to flow away from the containers. You may need to provide means for removing excess rainwater.

The storage area should be secure both during normal working hours and at night so as to prevent any unauthorised access to the petrol. A welded mesh, palisade or chain link fencing 1.8 metres high will provide sufficient security but this will not be required if the storage area is in a secure site and in a part of the premise where the general public do not have access. Any enclosed area around petrol containers should not limit the means of escape in the event of a fire and the travel distance from any part of the storage area to its exit should not exceed 24 metres. If the travel distance exceeds 24 metres, a second exit will be required.

A hazardous area of Zone 2 classification will normally exist within the storage area and for 1 metre beyond the sill or bund wall. You should exclude all sources of ignition from this area, as well as any combustible materials such as vegetation and rubbish.

How should I store petrol indoors at my workplace?

Where it is not reasonably practical to provide outdoor storage, you may keep containers within a specially designed building. The building should be predominately constructed of non-combustible materials (also defined as having a ‘low risk’ with respect to their reaction to fire) and be located at least 2 metres from occupied buildings, site boundaries, process areas, other flammable liquid storage tanks and fixed ignition sources. For quantities greater than 1000 litres of petrol increased distances will be required and reference should be made to HS(G)51.

The separation distance can be reduced if the building is constructed to a 30 minute fire-resisting standard.

Buildings should be provided with a good standard of ventilation to disperse any petrol vapours. This can be achieved with fixed, permanent openings at high and low level in opposite walls with a total area equivalent to 1-3% of the total area of the walls and roof. Openings should not normally be installed in any walls that are required to be fire-resisting. Where sufficient openings cannot be installed it may be necessary to provide mechanical exhaust ventilation to achieve the recommended ventilation rate of 5 air-changes per hour in the store.

The storage area should be constructed with an impervious surface and a low sill that will contain a volume that is at least 110% of the capacity of the largest container. (Note that environmental requirements may require a larger containment capacity). You may need to provide ramps over the sill to allow for easy access.

A hazardous area of Zone 2 classification will normally exist within the storage building. All sources of ignition should be excluded from this area.

It is preferable for the roof of the building to be constructed of lightweight materials that would relieve excess pressure in the event of an explosion.

The standard of security required for the building will depend on the overall site security but it should prevent any unauthorised access to the petrol.

How should I store diesel and what quantity am I allowed?

There are no specific legal requirements on how to store diesel or the quantity allowed either in workplaces or domestic premises. It is not, from a health and safety point of view, a particularly hazardous substance within the meaning of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 - its vapour flash point is too high. This means that its vapour will not ignite at normal room temperatures.

That said, there are some general issues you'll need to take into account:

While diesel is not a particularly dangerous substance from a health and safety point of view, it is an environmental hazard, with considerable clean-up costs if it should leak into a drain, watercourse or the soil. You may, therefore, wish to contact the Environment Agency for further information .

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What sort of containers can I use to store petrol at my workplace?

All containers should be designed and constructed to standards suitable for the purpose. They should be robust and have well-fitting lids or tops to prevent leakage of liquid or vapour.

Cans and drums should normally be made from metal although 5 litre plastic containers designed to the Petroleum-Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 can also be used. Plastic containers will, however, fail more quickly than metal ones in the event of a fire. Where plastic containers are used it is recommended that the separation distance from an outside store to buildings, the site boundary, etc. should be increased from 2 metres to 4 metres. Additionally plastic containers can suffer degradation in sunlight and should not be used in outdoor stores without suitable shading.

You should ensure that all containers are clearly labelled so that people are aware of their contents and hazards. Petrol cans should normally be labelled ‘Petroleum-spirit’ and ‘highly flammable’. Note that typical small containers may not be approved for carriage.

How many containers can I fill at a petrol station?

Petrol filling stations may have their own internal policy on the types and numbers of containers they are prepared to fill - frequently one or two 5 litre plastic and/or one or two 10 litre metal. This is a decision made by the filling station operator and is not a legal requirement.

Petrol filling stations usually have to abide by a licence condition to allow only 'suitable' containers to be filled. This is usually interpreted as metal containers up to a maximum size of 23 litres or plastic containers up to a maximum size of 5 litres. A licence condition has the same effect as a legal requirement. The licence condition does not limit how many containers one customer may fill.

Are there any common European standards for plastic petrol containers?

There are no International, European or British Standards for plastic petrol containers. The current state of play in Britain is that the 1982 Regulations are still in force except at workplaces. They limit the container size to 5 litres and the design and construction should be in line with the Approved Code of Practice. As far as we are aware, there are no common European standards for the design, construction and marking of plastic petrol containers, nor are any being developed.

What colour should my container be?

There are no restrictions on the colour. Custom and practice is that red is used for leaded petrol, green for unleaded and black for diesel.

What legislation covers petrol containers?

The Petroleum Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 do not apply to any premises subject to the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). This means they will not apply at any workplaces. Thus plastic containers intended for commercial, industrial use etc. do not need to comply with the 1982 regulations, but they will still need to be suitable for their intended purpose. However, the 1982 regulations will still apply to non-workplace situations, including storage in domestic premises.

The Petroleum Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc) Regulations 1929 have been modified. As they stood, these regulations allowed the storage of petrol without a licence, if the petrol is contained within the fuel tank of a vehicle – but the tank must be of metal construction. This meant, in theory, that anyone who kept in their garage a plastic demountable fuel tank from their motorboat needs a petrol licence. This anomaly has now been removed.

I have containers that have UN and French Ministry markings on them. Are these suitable?

The containers must be suitable for the intended purpose. The markings may mean they are suitable for transporting petrol from one point to another. It does not necessarily mean they can be safely filled from a dispenser at a filling station or that it is safe to decant petrol from the container into a vehicle, lawnmower, chain saw etc.

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Is diesel covered by the DSEAR Regulations?

The DSEAR regulations do not normally regard diesel fuel as a dangerous substance. This is because its flashpoint is fairly high and therefore not considered as a flammable substance within the meaning of the CHIP regulations (DSEAR uses the definitions in CHIP to define dangerous substances). The flashpoint of diesel is much higher that the normal ambient temperatures experienced in GB.

However, if diesel fuel or the vessel in which it is contained is heated to a point beyond its flashpoint (about 60 oC), then it is covered by DSEAR. Thus, for example, hot-work (welding or cutting etc) should not be undertaken on a tank or container which contains diesel until the tank or container has been completely emptied and gas-freed as otherwise there is a serious risk of a fire or explosion.

In some respects, diesel leaks and spills present more of a hazard to the environment than health and safety. You may therefore wish to contact your local Environmental Agency office to obtain details of any environmental legislation covering diesel.

Petrol filling stations

What is the guidance on dispensing petrol?

HSE publications

EI / APEA publications

Are you allowed to use mobile phones at petrol filling stations?

Generally mobile telephones are not designed and certified for use in explosive atmospheres. Their use can also create a serious distraction for people carrying out dispensing activities. Radio transmissions from individual mobile telephones are generally too low to induce dangerous electric currents in nearby equipment and the risk of incendive sparking from the battery is low, however, they should not be used in the hazardous areas that exist when actually dispensing petrol. Neither should they be used in the hazardous areas around the fill and vent pipes during petrol deliveries.

Rather than applying a total prohibition on the use of mobile telephones on petrol forecourts which has resulted in some anomalies and frequent abuse to staff, the following controls are recommended:

The use of radio equipment fitted on emergency vehicles and citizen band (CB) radios may create an ignition risk. These types of transmitting equipment do have a power output sufficient to induce dangerous electrical currents in nearby fixtures and they should not be allowed to be used at the dispensing points or in the vicinity of the road tanker when unloading. It should be noted that the radio equipment mounted on most emergency vehicles is under automatic interrogation from the base station. This means that radio messages are being received and transmitted without anyone speaking into a hand set. The Home Office has issued the emergency services with separate advice on the use of radios and CB equipment in the vicinity of filling stations.

What training do Forecourt attendants need?

It is a requirement of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 to provide adequate training and relevant information for all employees involved in the storage and handling of any dangerous substance. It will, therefore, be necessary to identify the training and retraining needs of forecourt staff by an assessment of the risks relating to fire and explosion . Further general information can be found in Approved Codes of Practice 6 to these Regulations.

Training in matters relating to the dispensing operation should include:

It is the responsibility of site management to instruct forecourt attendants not to authorise (or to over-ride the pre-authorisation of) a pump when a situation of poor visibility arises.

Is there any special clothing, such as high visibility jackets, that I should wear when delivering petrol?

The Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) require employers to consider providing suitable clothing for use in hazardous areas. This could include petrol tanker drivers who may wish to wear high visibility clothing. The only special quality required of clothing worn in flammable atmospheres is that it is anti-static.

There is no ignition risk from synthetic clothing provided that the wearer is earthed by suitable footwear and does not remove the clothing whilst in the explosive atmosphere.

Definitive guidance on avoiding electrostatic hazards can be found in

HSE has no ‘Codes of Practice’ that cover clothing requirements whilst unloading petrol.

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Updated 2013-12-06