It’s one of the most common activities those of us who drive a vehicle undertake – pouring petrol at the petrol station. However, the routine task involves petroleum: a substance labelled as a class 3 flammable liquid dangerous goods due to its flammable properties. Flammable liquids are liquids, mixtures of liquids or liquids containing solids which give off flammable vapours at certain temperatures and have a flash point of less than 60.5 degrees Celsius.  

Whilst it might not be widely reported, explosions and fires still occur at petrol stations around Australia, with some resulting in serious injury. Many of these incidents have involved people filling up a Jerry Can or external fuel container 

How can a fire start when filling a Jerry Can with petrol?   

When handling petrol, the higher the oxygen concentration and pressure in the atmosphere, the greater chance of a fire igniting. Vapours from petrol can be ignited by static electricity or courtesy lights inside the vehicle. Ignition can also easily occur if the container is held off the ground during the filling process, or by a reaction with any other electric devices or equipment within the vehicle.   

The below triangle diagram illustrates the three elements required for a fire to ignite: oxygen, heat and an oxidising agent (most commonly, oxygen). Usually, a fire can be extinguished by removing one of these elements, such as covering the fire with a fire blanket, which in turn blocks the oxygen element.

What safety steps should be taken when filling a Jerry Can with petrol?  

When handling any type of flammable liquid, caution should be taken to ensure the substance doesn’t cause a reaction which can result in ignition.

When filling a Jerry Can or fuel container it’s important to adhere to the following steps:  

  • Always place the portable fuel container on the ground to earth it, and away from any ignition sources  
  • Never fill containers inside the vehicle, within a trailer or boot
  • Ensure container is properly sealed and regulator approved – it’s important to check markings on the container to ensure it’s manufactured to Australian Standard
  • Keep one hand on the container while filling to reduce the likelihood of static electricity build up and discharge
  • Follow service station container fuelling rules: a maximum of 25 litres per Jerry Can fuel container* 
  • Transport fuel containers upright, away from heat sources (including the sun and vehicle heater), and in a well-ventilated space 

For more information about the correct handling, storage and transport of petrol, please contact us
*Rules may vary between state and territories in Australia.

Disclaimer: the information in this article is not intended to be used as a complete guide, it won’t suit every situation or type of transport as it contains recommendations of a general nature. Compliance requirements and safety standards can only be met by applying professional advice specific to each transportation situation. If you’d like more information or require advice for your dangerous goods management system, please contact us here.

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