WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert highlighting the increased risk of fires during refueling of petrol-powered equipment.
The alert was issued following an incident in which a worker received burns to their body while refueling a petrol-powered high-pressure washer.
The incident occurred while the petrol-powered pressure washer was still hot from use, and the investigation found a number of contributing factors, including:
• Refueling while the high-pressure washer engine was still hot from use.
• The design of the pressure washer where the fuel tank was located directly over the top of the pressure washer engine.
• The pressure washer engine is fueled by petrol, which is a flammable liquid.
• Vapours and fuel spills are easily ignited.
• The pressure washer was mounted on the tray of a tray back vehicle, requiring workers to stand on top of the vehicle tray for refueling tasks.
Depending on the positioning of the equipment, the working space may be limited; this may also have affected safe access / egress to the pressure washer.
The alert subsequently recommended a number of required actions:
• Undertake a risk assessment to ensure control measures are in place to eliminate ignition hazards when refueling.
• Ensure workers are aware of fire risks during refueling petrol-powered equipment and understand the control measures implemented to prevent the risk of fire.
• Consider the use of a removable/portable fuel tank.
• Consider the use of funnels to reduce the risk of spillage.
• Ensure all equipment is switched off allowing the engine to cool down prior refueling.
• Refuel away from heat and possible ignition sources; including hot parts, vapours or flames.
• Refuel in well-ventilated areas.
• Refuel using appropriate fuel containers.
• Use a funnel to reduce the risk of fuel spillage.
• Ensure appropriate fire extinguishers are readily accessible; dry powder extinguishers are suitable for petrol fires.
• Consider the positioning of equipment for safe access when setting up vehicles.
• Consult with the manufacturer if you are considering redesigning the setup of the equipment.
• Ensure workers refueling equipment are trained and competent to perform the task.
• Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety boots, non-flammable long pants and long sleeve shirts, eye or face protection, and gloves.
Australian Institute of Health & Safety
February 11, 2020