Information document - Guidance on the application of the dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres regulations (DSEAR) 2002 to motor vehicle repair (MVR)

OC 803/71

Health and safety executive

Information document

HSE OC 803/71

Guidance on the application of the dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres regulations (DSEAR) 2002 to motor vehicle repair (MVR)


1 Fires and explosions are one of the main causes of deaths and property damage in MVR (see Appendix 2). Usually, they involve the mishandling of petrol eg when draining fuel tanks and lines, but incidents have also occurred during 'hot work' repairs on vehicle diesel tanks and waste oil storage tanks, during the inappropriate use of paints/thinners/waste petrol to light rubbish fires, and the collection and use of waste engine oil in space heaters.

2 This Information Document draws together relevant guidance and provides practical advice for employers and the self-employed on the protection of workers from fire and explosion risks related to dangerous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres used or present in MVR. Paras 11 & 12 and Appendix 1 contain some useful 'DOs and DON'Ts' and further advice can be found on the HSE MVR website.

3 DSEAR1 came into force in December 2002, updating or replacing existing legislation eg Highly Flammable Liquids Regulations 1972 (HFL). Most of the requirements are not new and there should be little extra work for businesses who were complying with previous legislation.

4 The main change is the requirement to carry out a risk assessment. Other supporting changes include -

5 New MVR workplaces or ones modified after 30 June 2003 must meet all the DSEAR requirements from the time they come into use. Those in use before that date have until July 2006 to meet the requirements of Regulation 7 ie zoning, marking and compliance with EPS2.

Dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres

6 Typical examples of a Dangerous substance in MVR include -

An Explosive atmosphere is an accumulation of gas, mist, dust or vapour which, when mixed with air, has the potential to catch fire or explode.

Main requirements of DSEAR

7 Employers and the self-employed must -

Risk assessment

8 The risk assessment should determine whether existing measures are sufficient or if any additional controls or precautions are necessary and take account of -

9 Where there are five or more employees, the significant findings of the risk assessment must be recorded eg

Measures to eliminate or reduce risks

(i) substitution

10 In MVR there is no scope for substituting petrol or other vehicle fuel. It may be possible, however, to replace paints, solvents or cleaning materials classified as dangerous with ones that are less hazardous eg using a higher-flashpoint solvent or water-based materials. Where risk cannot be entirely eliminated, appropriate control and mitigation measures must be put in place.

(ii) control measures

11 In order of priority, the following control measures should be adopted where reasonably practicable -

Aim Methods
Reduce the quantity of dangerous substance to a minimum

Do keep stored quantities of petrol, and flammable paints, thinners and solvents, including wastes, as low as possible

Do keep numbers of gas cylinders to a minimum

Avoid or minimise releases

Do use fuel retrievers for draining petrol tanks/lines

Do use safety containers for flammable substances. Keep tops/lids on all containers and dispose contaminated cloths/rags safely

Do use a proprietary paint mixing system

Don't spray flammable paints outside a ventilated booth/enclosure/ controlled spray space.

Control releases at source

Do use tools with built in extraction or local exhaust equipment when sanding organic body fillers

Do ensure that the booth/enclosure extraction is switched on before spraying

Prevent the formation of an

explosive atmosphere

Do potentially dangerous work in safe and well ventilated areas eg in the open air

Don't drain petrol tanks/lines over or close to an inspection pit, drain or other opening in the ground

Don't carry out welding or other hot work on petrol or diesel tanks, unless they've been adequately cleaned and gas freed; nor near to brake lines. Never attempt to repair an LPG fuel tank - seek specialist advice

Collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place Do maintain extraction/filtration equipment. Ensure it is capable of removing dangerous concentrations
Avoid ignition sources

Don't smoke or carry out any hot work while draining petrol or where flammable vapours could be present -

Do ensure that equipment provided for inspection pits, spray booths and other zoned areas is suitable for use in explosive atmospheres2

Avoid adverse conditions

which could lead to danger

Do ensure that temperature controls on drying/ curing ovens are properly maintained

Don't charge batteries at charging rates in excess of manufacturers' recommendations

Do keep airbags in properly secured containers

Keep incompatible substances apart Don't store oxygen and flammable gas cylinders together

(iii) mitigation measures

12 Reasonably practicable mitigation measures to reduce the effects of any fire, explosion or similar event should be considered, including -

Aim Methods
Preventing fires and explosions from spreading to other parts of the workplace Do store petrol, paints, solvents, gas cylinders in safe places in the open air if possible, or in storerooms which are in safe positions or are fire-resisting structures
provide at least half-hour fire resistant isolation for spray booths and any storage area inside occupied buildings

Reducing to a minimum the numbers of employees/ other

persons who may be at risk

Don't allow unauthorised persons into zoned areas eg spray booths/enclosures/ spaces; inspection pits

Do provide adequate and safe means of escape in case of fire eg from spray booths/ enclosures using flammable substances

Providing plant and equipment

that can safely contain or

suppress an explosion, or vent

it to a safe place

Do provide and maintain explosion relief panels where required eg on those direct-fired drying/curing ovens working at temperatures over 80C and on some in which air is recirculated; and on dust collection plants

Hazardous area classification

13 The Hazardous area classification of MVR premises is not simple. However, whilst transient activities involving flammable substances eg use of aerosols can take place anywhere on site, the following are examples of places that would normally be considered to be hazardous include-

14 The special precautions that apply to hazardous places are -

(i) area classification (zoning)

15 Hazardous places are classified in terms of zones on the basis of the likelihood and duration of an explosive atmosphere eg

(0,1 & 2 apply to gases, vapours and mists; 20 21 & 22 to dusts)

(ii) selection of equipment (protection from sources of ignition)

16 Equipment, both electrical and mechanical, used in the zones must meet the requirements of EPS2though, if in use before July 2003 can continue to be used provided the risk assessment shows it is safe to do so and it is maintained in good condition. The following equipment categories apply to the above zones -

Examples of equipment in MVR which might need protection include lighting (fixed and portable, even 12volt), hand-held drills, grinders, polishers, paint spray equipment, drying lamps.

(iii) marking of entry points into zones

17 'EX' warning signs should be displayed at the entrances to places which are used exclusively for an activity involving a flammable substance eg flammable paint/solvent stores, spray booths, body preparation grinding areas, and because of their unique hazard, inspection pits.

At other locations where the use of materials containing dangerous substances is transient eg aerosols, activities should be covered by risk assessment, appropriate control measures and strict adherence to procedures. Some businesses have decided to activate visual/audible warnings when potentially hazardous activities are taking place. Whatever measures are adopted, they must be fully understood by everyone in or entering the workshop.

(iv) provision of anti-static clothing

18 Employees who work in zoned areas should be provided with clothing, especially footwear, which minimises the risk of an electrostatic discharge igniting the explosive atmosphere.

(v) verification of safety before coming into use

19 All areas where hazardous explosive atmospheres may be present and coming into use for the first time after 30 June 2003, must be confirmed as being safe (verified). The person carrying out the verification must be competent to consider the particular risks at the workplace and the adequacy of control and other measures put in place.

Emergency arrangements

20 Emergency arrangements, proportionate to the level of risk, should be prepared where the risk assessment concludes that an accident, incident or emergency could arise, eg a fire or significant spillage, because of the quantity of dangerous substance present. For example -

Information on emergency procedures should be given to employees and the emergency services advised that the information is available.

Information, instruction and training for employees and others

21 In addition to information on emergency procedures (see para 20), employees and other persons who may be at risk should be provided with suitable information, instruction and training on the precautions and actions they need to take to safeguard themselves including -

Much of this information is already required by existing health and safety legislation. Notices restricting entry by non-employees and others should be prominently displayed at the entrances to hazardous areas.

Enforcement allocation for petroleum spirit

22 DSEAR introduces new arrangements for the regulation of petroleum spirit. It removes licensing controls under the Petroleum Consolidation Act (PCA) 1928, except for any activity relating to fuelling of motor vehicles (and other specified vessels) with petroleum spirit, including the associated bulk storage. For activities relating to the fuelling of motor vehicles, DSEAR applies as well as PCA and Petroleum Licensing Authorities (PLAs) will enforce DSEAR in relation to such dispensing and bulk storage.

23 Regulation of the storage and dispensing of petrol which is not associated with the fuelling of vehicles, including storage in cans and drums, dispensing into (approved) containers or an engine test bed or the fuel tank of a generator etc, now come under DSEAR and enforcement responsibility has been allocated to HSE/Local Authority (LA) Environmental Health Departments.

24 The appropriate standards for drum or bulk storage of petroleum spirit which is not part of a licensed activity, are those currently applicable to the storage of highly flammable liquids in general in HSGs 51 or 176. However, for existing stores built to the Home Office Code there should normally be no need to provide explosion relief in accordance with HSG51.

Further reading

  1. 1 DSEAR -the dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres regulations 2002(SI 2002/2776). Back to reference of footnote 1
  2. 2 EPS -The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996(SI 1996/192). Back to reference of footnote 2

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HSE priced and free publications are available by mail order from HSE Books, TSO Customer Services, PO Box 29, Norwich, NR3 1GN. Tel: +44 (0)333 202 5070. Website:

You can also visit HSE's MVR where HSE's free leaflets can be downloaded.

This document contains notes on good practice which are not mandatory but which you may find helpful in considering what you need to do.


Storage of flammable liquids (including petrol)

The storage and use of flammable liquids in containers HSG51 (1998) (9.50)

Do store all HFLs, including waste solvents and petrol/diesel mixtures from mis-fuellings, in suitable containers, fitted with lids/tops and kept either

Do use a proprietary safety container for storage/use of flammable substances where appropriate

Do dispose contaminated cloths/rags safely

Handling of petrol

Safe use of petrol in garages INDG331 (2013)

Vehicle inspection pits

Hot work (including welding, burning, infra-red heating or any other process which generates flames, sparks or heat)

Gas cylinders containing flammable gas
The safe use of gas cylinders
INDG308(rev1) (2002)

Body preparation

Paint mixing

Paint spraying

The spraying of flammable liquids HSG178 (1998) (9.50)

Drying and curing ovens

Battery charging

Vehicle valeting

Safe working with flammable substances INDG227 (1996)

Lpg fuelled vehicles

Airbags and seatbelt pretensioners

Appendix 2 Fires & explosions in MVR - Summaries of investigated incidents

Fires and explosions due to mis-handling of petrol

Repair of diesel tanks

Fires/explosions during the burning of rubbish/waste materials

Recently there have been several incidents at MVR premises in which employees have been seriously burned when waste thinners, petrol or other flammable liquid was used to start fires. The materials being burned were mostly cardboard, paper, litter or other wastes.

Updated 2021-01-14