Dispensing petrol as a fuel: Health and safety guidance for employees

Do you work at a petrol filling-station or any other site where petrol is stored and dispensed as a fuel?

If so, this leaflet is for you. It explains what you and your employer need to do in order to safeguard your health and safety and that of others.

Petrol - the dangers

  • Petrol is a highly flammable liquid which can give off flammable vapour, even at very low temperatures. This means there is always a risk of fire or explosion if a source of ignition is present;
  • It floats on the surface of water and may travel long distances, eventually causing danger away from the place where it escaped;
  • Petrol vapour does not disperse easily and may also travel long distances. It tends to sink to the lowest possible level and may collect in tanks, cavities, drains, pits, or other enclosed areas, where there is little air movement;
  • Flammable atmospheres may be present in empty tanks and petrol cans. There is also a danger if petrol is spilled on clothing, rags etc;
  • Petrol vapour can be harmful if inhaled. Petrol should not be swallowed and contact with the skin should be avoided.

What you need to know

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act your employer has a responsibility towards you, both to take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety, and to equip you to do your job without danger to yourself or others.

You also have a duty to look after your own safety and that of others.

Risk assessment

Your employer has a legal responsibility to carry out an assessment of the risks arising from the operation of your site and to take steps to eliminate or control those risks. You should inform your employer if you identify any potentially dangerous situations which are not being controlled. The essential steps to the risk assessment are:

  • Step 1 - Look for the hazards;
  • Step 2 - Decide who might be harmed and how;
  • Step 3 - Evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done;
  • Step 4 - Record the significant findings of the assessment;
  • Step 5 - Review the assessment from time to time and revise it if necessary.


You should have received training on the correct safety procedures for any of the following tasks for which you are responsible:

  • Operating dispensing equipment, and recognising and reporting faults;
  • Recording tank contents and meter readings;
  • Using other site equipment, and recognising and reporting faults;
  • Dealing with potential danger, including the use of firefighting equipment, dealing with leakages and spillages, notifying the emergency services and recording accident damage;
  • Procedures when delivery of petrol takes place - only people appointed and trained as 'competent persons' under the appropriate Regulations may receive deliveries;
  • Procedures for dispenser switch-off, tanker parking, tanker and tank dip checks or gauge readings, petroleum certification, and completion of fuel stock control records;
  • Site opening and closing procedures;
  • Dealing with customer queries regarding safety.

A record of this training should be maintained by your employer.

You also need to know...

  • the danger zones on site and the special precautions needed there;
  • the safety standards on receipt of deliveries;
  • the importance to safety of a clean and tidy forecourt with no flammable materials in danger zones;
  • site security practices and how to follow them;

Personal protection and hygiene

  • the value of protective clothing, such as footwear, gloves and goggles, and when to wear them;
  • the need to wash properly with plenty of soap and water after finishing work, or at any time when you get petrol or oil on your hands;
  • the correct methods of handling and lifting.

Do make sure you have the information and training needed to carry out your duties safely. If in doubt, ask.

Don't carry out any task for which you have not been properly trained. Don't assume you know the dangers or the correct safety procedures.

Dispensing petrol safely

If you are under the age of 18 you should not be left in sole charge of a filling-station.

Before a petrol dispenser is used (whether by you or by customers) you should make sure there is no danger. Control has to be constant to prevent dangerous situations occurring.

Make sure that...

  • each vehicle and the person using a dispenser can be seen and that your view is not obstructed;
  • proper procedures are followed throughout the filling operation, eg dispenser nozzles are correctly inserted, delivery hoses are not stretched or kinked and tripper latches are not wedged open;
  • at filling-stations the loudspeaker system and any closed-circuit TV is working correctly;
  • vehicle engines are switched off when at the dispensers;
  • people under the age of 16 do not buy petrol or operate dispensers;
  • no one smokes in the vicinity of the dispenser (ie in danger zones);
  • no one uses portable electric/electronic equipment such as a CB radio or portable telephone;
  • people wishing to fill containers with petrol use only those which are approved.

Always check carefully that there is no danger before you start the petrol dispenser and during its operation.

Fire precautions

There should be:

  • adequate means for contacting the fire brigade when necessary;
  • suitable equipment for dealing with minor incidents;
  • a supply of dry sand and fire extinguishers readily available;
  • conspicuous notices - 'Petrol' or 'Petroleum Spirit', 'Highly Flammable', 'No Smoking', and 'Switch Off Engine' - positioned close to pumps and dispensers to alert customers to the hazards.

Make sure you know what you are expected to do and who you should inform if there is a dangerous incident.

Further information

More detailed information is contained in the booklet, the APEA/IP Code of practice for the design, construction and operation of petrol filling stations, available from The Administrator, Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration, PO Box 2, Hadleigh, Suffolk IP7 5SF.Additional single copies of this leaflet version of this document are available free from HSE Books. It is also available in priced packs of 15, price £5.00 (discounts available for multiples), from HSE Books, ISBN 0 7176 1098 5.

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: https://books.hse.gov.uk/ (HSE priced publications are also available from bookshops and free leaflets can be downloaded from HSE's website: www.hse.gov.uk.)

Further advice can be obtained from HSE offices (see under Health and Safety Executive in the telephone directory). For other enquiries write to HSE's Information Centre, Broad Lane, Sheffield S3 7HQ..

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

This document is available at: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg216.htm.

© Crown copyright This publication may be freely reproduced, except for advertising, endorsement or commercial purposes. First published 02/97. Please acknowledge the source as HSE.

Published by the Health and Safety Executive.

INDG216 C338 2/97

Added to the web Site 2/6/98

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