Inspection of workplace storage and dispensing of petroleum spirit and liaison with petroleum licensing authorities: Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 SI 2002/2776

OC 293/5 Version 4


This OC describes the arrangements for the regulation of petroleum spirit introduced on 9 December 2002 by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR.). The storage of petroleum spirit in cans and drums, and in tanks which are not associated with the dispensing of petrol, is no longer required to be licensed and is now regulated by HSE/LA Environmental Health Departments under DSEAR. Any activity relating to fuelling motor vehicles, ships (including boats) and aircraft with petroleum spirit (including the related bulk storage) is still required to be licensed by the Petroleum Licensing Authority (PLA). The OC also describes the liaison arrangements between HSE and PLAs.  Version 4 of this OC updates links and references and incorporates some clarifications, but does not make any substantive changes to the content.


1  Prior to DSEAR the storage of petroleum spirit at non-major hazard sites was regulated in most cases by PLAs under the Petroleum Consolidation Act 1928 (PCA) and subsidiary legislation. PLAs are mainly local authorities and the role is normally assigned to the fire authority or trading standards department. However, some authorities have allocated petroleum enforcement to Environmental Health Officers.

2  At sites where PLAs had no petrol licensing duties there is no change in the enforcement arrangements. Such sites comprise MoD sites and those subject to the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH) and the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations (NIHHS).

Changes introduced by DSEAR

3  DSEAR amended the PCA (Enforcement) Regulations 1979 to enable the changes below.

4  The changes are:

*NB: Ships are defined to include every type of vessel used in navigation propelled by an internal combustion engine.

5  Some examples to illustrate the above situations are given in the table at the Appendix. The examples are not exhaustive.

6  Where both DSEAR and PCA apply, PLAs will apply the petrol licensing conditions under the umbrella of the general legislative provisions in DSEAR. DSEAR provide a comprehensive framework for controlling dangerous substances of all types including petrol and require employers to:

Definition of petroleum spirit

7  DSEAR (Schedule 6 Part 1) amend petroleum legislation to define petroleum spirit as:

'petroleum which, when tested in accordance with Part A.9 of the Annex to the Directive, has a flash point (as defined in that part) of less than 21 ºC'.

8  The definition embraces petroleum products such as hexane, toluene and xylene, which are used as a solvent or raw material in the chemical and other manufacturing industries. In relation to PCA such chemicals are sometimes known as 'substances deemed to be petrol'.

Storage of petroleum spirit in cans and drums

9  Prior to 1990 the PLAs used the older Home Office Code of Principles of Construction and Licensing Conditions Part 1 Section 1: Storage of cans, drums and other receptacles. Since 1990 PLAs have been applying HSG51, The storage of flammable liquids in containers.

10  Prior to DSEAR HSE was already dealing with petroleum spirit in situations where petroleum spirit and other highly flammable liquids were kept in the same store. Inspectors should apply the standards in HSG51 to the storage of petroleum spirit (but see paras 11 and 12).

11  Installations meeting the standards of either of the above guidance documents are acceptable but there is a major difference between them. The older Home Office Code advocates a robust bunker approach with solid walls and a heavy concrete roof to provide protection to the store from external events. HSG51 advocates fire resistant walls (depending on location) but with a weak roof to act as explosion relief in the event of an incident within the store.

12  Because of the robust nature of the stores built to the Home Office Code there will still be many around and it is important to stress that there should be no need to seek difficult and costly upgrades to provide explosion relief in accordance with HSG51. 

13  With DSEAR, PLAs no longer have the powers to licence the storage of petroleum spirit where it is not part of the refuelling of motor vehicles, etc. PLAs should provide any significant information on previously licensed stores to HSE/LA EHDs.

Tank storage

14  In addition to HSE taking on enforcement responsibility for petroleum can and drum stores in 2002,  a number of tank storage facilities were also transferred  to HSE, and in particular HID. These included the bulk storage of chemicals such as toluene, xylene, hexane and octane and any petrol storage depots with sub-COMAH quantities.

15  Such facilities were previously licensed under PCA. Many of these facilities have underground storage tanks (UST) because that was what PLAs normally asked for. Leak detection has always been a contentious issue with USTs and previous licence conditions for such tanks may have involved tank testing and stringent inventory control procedures.

16  Guidance for tanks is contained in HSG176 The storage of flammable liquids in tanks, which applies to both above and below ground fixed bulk storage tanks.

Workplace (non-retail) dispensing of petrol into motor vehicles, etc

17  DSEAR Schedule 6 Part 1 amends petroleum legislation to define a non-retail petroleum filling station as:

'premises used, or intended for use, for dispensing petroleum spirit for use in motor vehicles, ships or aircraft, but it does not include any retail petroleum filling station'.

18  Schedule 6 part 1 of DSEAR also amends petroleum legislation to define the dispensing of petroleum spirit as:

'manual or electrical pumping of petroleum spirit from a storage tank into the fuel tank for an internal combustion engine, whether for the purposes of sale or not, and "dispenser" shall be construed accordingly'.

19  The non-retail refuelling with petrol of motor vehicles, etc may be encountered at a variety of premises. Such premises may include those occupied by police, fire and ambulance services or MoD. They may also include motor vehicle manufacture, eg car production lines, car hire depots, car sales showrooms and farms.

20  PLAs will continue to regulate such refuelling activities using PCA under the umbrella of the general legislative provisions in DSEAR. PLAs are responsible for the whole activity from the integrity of the storage tank to the act of an operator dispensing petrol into the motor vehicle, etc.

21. As HSE/LA EHDs will generally have enforcement responsibility under DSEAR for non petrol-related  activities at non-retail petrol filling stations, there will need to be close liaison between enforcing authorities.

Dispensing of petrol other than into motor vehicles, ships and aircraft

22  PLAs only enforce PCA at retail and non-retail petrol filling stations. Any petrol dispensing activities at premises which fall outside these categories are regulated under DSEAR, with enforcement by HSE or the LA EHD as appropriate. The principal example is a petrol engine production plant where petrol is dispensed into engines on a test bed, but there is no fuelling of vehicles on the premises.

23  In situations such as the dispensing of petrol into jerry cans or into the fuel tank of a generator, these not being motor vehicles, enforcement falls to HSE/LA EHD under DSEAR. However, where the same dispensing equipment is also used for the refuelling of motor vehicles, etc PLAs will be responsible for the licensing of that equipment.

Liaison arrangements

24  The initial HSE contact for PLAs on petroleum enforcement issues is the local FOD enforcement liaison officer (ELO). The ELOs will decide whether the enquiry requires a legal or technical response. In the case of a routine legal query, eg procedural matters in respect of service of enforcement notices or the institution of legal proceedings, the ELO will deal with the matter in the usual way. 25. The Petroleum Enforcement Liaison Group (PELG) is a Local Authority Liaison Committee (HELA) working group set up to promote consistency amongst local authority PLAs in licensing and enforcement issues. It comprises representatives from local authority enforcers and HSE, and produces guidance on enforcement issues for PLAs who are encouraged to raise general issues within the group. Guidance is in the form of HELA Local Authority Circulars that can be accessed on the HSE website under the heading petroleum . Further information on PELG can also be found on the website.

26  Technical enquiries from PLAs, eg in respect of the design or location of a petroleum installation, should be referred by the ELO to the appropriate process safety specialist. They will then deal with the query themselves, or they will refer it to the DSEAR Hub which will keep PELG informed of queries they receive, particularly if they have general application.

Guidance for inspectors

27  When inspecting can and drum storage or bulk storage of petroleum spirit, which is not part of a licensed activity, inspectors should apply the standards in HSGs 51 or 176 respectively. The standards are those that are currently applied for the storage of highly flammable liquids in general (but note para 12).

28  There is a set of technical ACOPs on DSEAR . These ACOPs include additional advice on the safe storage of dangerous substances, eg on fulfilling the requirements for risk assessment.

Further information

29  Queries on the application of DSEAR to activities involving petroleum spirit may be directed to the Services, Transportation and Safety Unit or HID CI 4E as appropriate.

Cancellation of instructions

OC 293/5 version 3 - cancel and destroy

Appendix - Workplace regulation of petroleum spirit - some examples of activities and the corresponding enforcement arrangements

At retail and non-retail petrol filling stations
Activity Legislation Enforcing Authority Notes
Storage of petrol in tanks for fuelling of motor vehicles, etc DSEAR and PCA PLA -
Refuelling of motor vehicles, etc. with all fuels at retail petrol filling station DSEAR and PCA PLA -
Refuelling of motor vehicles, etc. with petrol only at non-retail petrol filling station DSEAR and PCA PLA Includes dispensing into vehicles on a production line
Dispensing of petrol into:
- mobile plant and machinery,
eg generators;
- jerry cans
Dispensing of petrol from airfield fuel bowser into small aircraft PCA PLA where there are no fixed storage tanks on site and the bowser also acts as the fuel storage facility
Petrol recovery from scrap vehicles - with dispensing into other vehicles DSEAR and PCA PLA Site qualifies as a non-retail petrol filling station.
At premises other than retail and non-retail petrol filling stations
Activity Legislation Enforcing Authority Notes
Dispensing of petrol, NOT as part of refuelling motor vehicles, etc DSEAR HSE/LA EHD Dispensing into:
- fuel tanks for engines on a test bed;
Fuelling of small aircraft from petrol bowser DSEAR HSE where bowser is used to transport fuel from fixed storage tank or hydrant to aircraft
Storage of petroleum spirit (PS) in cans and drums DSEAR HSE/LA EHD Highly flammable liquids store; petrol can store
Storage of PS in tanks (not related to fuelling motor vehicles, etc) DSEAR HSE/LA EHD Storage of toluene or xylene for use in a manufacturing process
Storage and dispensing of PS at COMAH/ NIHHS and MoD sites DSEAR COMAH: HSE with environment agencies; NIHHS: HSE and MoD: HSE -
Pouring, decanting or gravity feeding of PS DSEAR HSE/LA EHD Pouring petrol from a jerry can into the fuel tank for a motor vehicle, generator, cement mixer, etc.
Use of proprietary fuel retrievers in motor vehicle repair (OC 803/68 refers) DSEAR HSE/LA EHD Removal of petrol from vehicle fuel tanks and transfer to a suitable container
Petrol recovery from scrap vehicles - no dispensing into other vehicles DSEAR HSE/LA EHD -
Updated 2021-01-12