Journal Note: We at the ESD Journal believe that Jim is correct in the following
article. We see some retailers doing more these days after the news coverage of
refueling fires but we see many doing as little as possible or nothing at all.
Look at this label, which did not have enough information and was not too obvious
from the start. The retailer placed a "Do not drive off label" over
it. Was there no room anywhere else? In the "Chesterfield
Fire" there were signs in place but the young lady must have not seen
them. They were a little "busy" with too much verbiage and not enough
contrast and icons. They were not as Jim describes in the article - "obvious."
a retailer's responsibility? The National Fire Protection Association's documents
NFPA 30, the Flammable Liquids Code and NFPA 30A Code for
Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages are
widely accepted standards of care when handling any flammable liquid, including
gasoline. NFPA 30A identifies three types of retail fuel transfer locations, 1)
attended, 2) attended self-service and 3) unattended self-service.
At attended sites, employees of the retailer are charged with delivering fuel into the consumer's automobile or portable tank. These persons must be trained in the hazards of gasoline and how to prevent static fires. At unattended self-service sites, instructions and warning signs are present to inform consumers of the hazards associated with gasoline. Our reviews indicate the greatest number of static discharge fires occur at attended self-service sites. Here instructions and warnings should be present, however an employee of the retailer is charged with overseeing proper fuel transfer.
Where patrons dispense fuel and attendants monitor the activities of multiple dispensers, attended self-service locations, retailers are at greater exposure than when they have full control over the dispensing operation. Because they have less control than at attended locations, more frequent equipment inspections, conspicuous posting warnings of dangers, understandable instruction indicating proper fuel transfer procedures, and observation to avert dangerous behavior combine to reduce the retailer's liability exposure, but moreover, reduce the probability of a catastrophic fire which can injure or kill patrons. Vigilance in assuring employees are properly trained and remain alert for hazards is essential in reducing chances of injury or damage from dangerous fires.
inspections and testing should be performed on each dispenser, hose and other
equipment. This inspection and testing should be performed to assure the dispensing
system remains in compliance with NFPA and PEI-400 standards.
An issue of note is that regulations have changed regarding the type of nozzle required for dispensers designed to facilitate stopping fuel flow anywhere other than the nozzle, the nozzle must be one "that causes or requires the closing of the hose nozzle valve before product flow can be resumed or before the hose nozzle valve can be replaced in its normal position in the dispenser, or the hose nozzle valve shall not be equipped with a latch-open device."(i) Many retail distributors have improper nozzles affixed to their dispensers, specifically those that are capable of starting flow whether or not the patron is near at the nozzle. For practical matters, removing the hold open devices from all self service dispensing locations is the best option, this way reentry into vehicles could not, occur, thus static fires would be reduced.
Training and Observation
Attendants must be able to visually observe fuel transfer, either by direct line of sight or through video surveillance systems. Procedures must prevent attendants from starting dispensers until they visually affirm that all safety measures are engaged.
Among the responsibilities of an attendant is to control sources of ignition.(v) In addition to preventing fuel delivery should smoking occur within 20 feet of the delivery point, controls should be shut off if automobiles are not turned off. Control of known static accumulators is also essential to prevent ignition, an example of an attendants responsibilities is to shut off the dispenser should a patron leaves the refueling position and especially if the patron reenters their vehicle.
stated responsibility is to prevent dispensing into improper portable containers
or to dispense the fuel into them improperly. Codes require that containers have
a tight closure and fitted spouts that prevent spillage when fuel is being poured
from them. Filling can only be done by manually holding the nozzle open during
dispensing. Lastly, portable containers holding less than 12 gallons capacity
are not permitted to be filled while they are in or on a motor vehicle or marine
craft. Attendants observing persons dispensing gasoline into containers inside
vehicles must immediately stop the pump.
Become acquainted with NFPA, PEI and API codes and standards. Follow these standards
in design and operation of attended self service facilities.
the attendant observe unsafe acts, they must stop fuel flow to that dispenser
i NFPA 30A, 2000 - section 6.6.3
L. Pharr has more than 24 years experience investigating
fires. He holds an Associate Degree in Fire Science from Rowan Technical
Institute and a Bachelor's Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering from
the University of Cincinnati and is a graduate of the National Fire
Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. He holds certifications
as fire service instructor and fire/arson investigator with the North
Carolina Fire Commission, and Certified Fire Investigator with the
International Association of Arson Investigators. He has been recognized
by the court system as an expert witness in the field of origin and
cause. He is currently employed as Emergency Management Director/Fire
Marshal for Gaston County, North Carolina.