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Fire hazard of static electricity when handling flammable liquids

Published: 22 October 2009
Last Updated: 22 October 2009


The purpose of this safety alert is to:

  • Inform people about the danger of igniting flammable liquids by static electricity.
  • Provide guidance on how to control static electricity when filling containers with flammable liquid at service stations.


Incidents have occurred at service stations where a car and bowser has caught fire when the car owner was holding a can while filling it with petrol.

Such incidents can lead to personal injuries and destruction of property including the the car and bowser.

Fires have been caused by the discharge of static electricity igniting the vapours from the petrol because the fuel can has not been earthed.

Hazards and risks

  • Dispensing petrol creates a hazardous atmosphere around the dispenser by releasing flammable vapours.
  • Flowing flammable liquids can generate a static electricity discharge and sparks, resulting from the discharge, can ignite the vapours from the flammable liquids.
  • There can be other sources of ignition in a workplace, but static electricity is particularly risky because it is often not 'visible' or well understood by people.

Recommended control measures

  • Use proper earthing and bonding to control static electricity.
  • Always place the fuel container on the ground before filling with flammable liquid.
  • Never fill a container with petrol in the boot of a car, in the tray, or on the tailgate of a utility truck.
  • Never use unapproved containers to store fuel.
  • Always use a plastic fuel container that complies with AS2906 or a metal container with a close-fitting lid.
  • Do not fill containers with flammable liquid that have a capacity greater than 25 litres.
  • Reduce splash filling as much as possible.
  • Always read and observe the signs at service stations that state the need to place a fuel container on the ground when filling it.

Further information

More information about obligations relating to this issue can be found in: