Service station operators must manage and maintain sites according to the work health and safety legislation and relevant standards.
Service stations store and handle large amounts of hazardous chemicals and present unique hazards, due to the flammability of their products.
In order to manage the risk of dispensing fuel safely service station operators must manage and maintain sites according to the work health and safety legislation and relevant standards.
Under previous Queensland legislation, sites were licensed by their local council. Licences have been abolished and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is now responsible for regulating the safety of service stations.
Service stations typically store thousands of litres of various commercially available fuel products such as ULP, PULP, diesel, and E10. These are often stored in underground tanks with numerous fuel dispensers located on the forecourt for public dispensing of fuel. Some service stations may also have an aboveground LP gas storage tank and small customer-exchange LP gas cylinders as an additional product line.
These products are highly flammable and present fire and explosion risks if not safely managed. The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation) requires that the risk from hazardous chemicals be at an acceptable level (that is, risks should be minimised as far as reasonably practicable). However, with some exceptions, the legislation does not prescribe how this is to be done.
Practical guidance in this regard as well as design and site separation distances is available from technical sources such as Australian Standards as listed below:
- AS 1940-2004 The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids
- AS 4897-2008 The design, installation and operation of underground petroleum storage systems
- AS 4977-2008 Petroleum products – pipeline, road tanker compartment and underground tank identification
- AS 4976-2008 The removal and disposal of underground petroleum storage tanks
- AS/NZS 1596:2014 The storage and handling of LP gas
Factors that increase the chances of someone being harmed, and therefore the controls required include the:
- frequency and method of delivery
- storage capacity and method (e.g. underground verses aboveground)
- volume dispensed (i.e. throughput)
- location of the site, in particular proximity to occupied buildings, roadways, areas for public gatherings
- number of employees and members of the public who may be in or around the site
- training and competence of site personnel
- age, type, and condition of equipment and whether supply is self-service or attendant operated or unattended
- layout of the site in relation to other site activities, including workshops, paint spraying, car cleaning, shops, restaurants etc
- specific factors of the site, e.g. ground conditions, drainage systems which may affect the spread of spilled fuel.
Key precautions to prevent fire and explosion include:
- effective containment of petrol
- spillage prevention, in particular during delivery and dispensing
- effective management of expected or unexpected releases of fuels
- keeping ignition sources away from fuels and associated flammable vapours (see hazardous areas)
- effective training for managers and staff
- appropriate consultation with staff regarding hazards, risk controls and emergency actions
- adequate supervision of members of the public, contractors and other site visitors
- identification and response to changes in the vicinity of the site which may affect safety such as new buildings and activities on site or at adjoining premises.
Section 336 of the WHS Regulation requires workers supplying hazardous chemicals to be at least 16 years of age.
Supply of fuel into a customer's container
As a supplier of hazardous chemicals, the retailer who supplies fuel in a container provided by a customer must ensure that the hazardous chemical is correctly packed (refer to section 337). For example the container complies with AS/NZS 2906: Fuel containers – Portable-plastic and metal, and marked accordingly.
Emergency planning must be undertaken and emergency actions for dealing with incidents during delivery or dispensing must be established. Procedures should also address any apparent loss of stored fuel, e.g. stock reconciliation discrepancies. Such discrepancies require investigation as they may indicate a loss of integrity of an underground tank.
Loss of petroleum products into the subsurface can lead to vapours being present in unexpected places such as drains and conduits. This hazard is in addition to the environmental hazards such as groundwater contamination.
Due to the quantities of hazardous chemicals stored and handled at a service station, they typically exceed the manifest quantity for flammable liquids and/or flammable gases. As a result, the PCBU is required to notify Workplace Health and Safety Queensland as a manifest quantity workplace. The table below summaries the manifest thresholds for various products typically found at a service station.
|Manifest thresholds for various service station products|
ADG code classification
Manifest quantity (L)
Flammable gas, category 1
Division 2.1, Flammable gas
Petrol (ULP, PULP)
Flammable liquid, category 2
Class 3, Packing group II
Flammable liquid, category 2
Class 3, Packing group II
Flammable liquid, category 4
Service station operator guide
A guide for service station operators under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011(PDF, 1.16 MB) has been developed help operators of service stations to meet their obligations under the WHS Regulation. The guide focuses on hazardous chemical requirements under the WHS Regulation for the fuel storage and handling issues typically found at service stations.
Industry compliance program
A statewide audit of randomly chosen sites was conducted to assess compliance with the hazardous chemicals provisions in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (the WHS Regulation). Areas that were assessed included the site manifest, site upkeep, fire fighting equipment, maintenance records for tanks and associated equipment, emergency response and site operator training.
View the Compliance report: Service station inspection program 2014-2015 (PDF, 0.8 MB)
More information on controlling risks associated with flammable and combustible liquids under the Act is available in the Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.24 MB)
Service station operators can also find more information about: