A refresh on safe practice for petrol powered equipment

Axel Hildebrandin Technical

If you work with petrol powered equipment, you will likely be aware of the many legal requirements and regulations set out to protect you and your employees from the potential risks this can pose. Axel Hildebrand of Anglo American Oil Company Ltd - UK distributors of Aspen Fuel - addresses some key considerations when it comes to storage and emissions, along with an update on accessories to further improve the safe usage of petrol for both businesses and the operator.

From the safe storage of fuel under The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) to protecting employees from harmful exhaust emissions under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), it can be a challenge keeping up with the sheer amount of guidance available.

Petrol is understandably considered a 'dangerous substance' by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and no matter what type of petrol a company is using, they must take the steps necessary to ensure the transportation and storage of fuel is done safely. Storing and dispensing petrol at a workplace is covered by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). DSEAR sets the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from fire and explosion risks related to dangerous substances and requires employers to control the risks to the safety of employees and others from these hazards.

While there is not a limit legally on how much petrol you can store if you're a commercial customer, the amount kept on workplace premises should be 'reasonable' and not exceed expected usage. An accurate risk assessment should also be conducted. There are many different factors that you need to consider and these will differ for each individual premises - guidance around best practice can be sought on the HSE website, as well as from your insurance company and local fire authorities.

A number of options are available for the storage of petrol - from large cabinets suitable for the storage of fuel drums, to containers or boxes for smaller quantities. All cabinets/containers should be properly labelled and, where practical, should be stored in the open and at ground level. Aspen offer the Transbank fuel storage box - custom designed by Armorgard Security Products - for the convenient, safe storage of 54 5L cans of fuel. It is coated in a durable red epoxy coating on both the inside and the outside and is ventilated to prevent the build-up of fumes. Double padlocked for security, it meets all current legislation for storage of hazardous goods, including the stipulated 30-minute fire resistance requirement.

Grounds maintenance contractors Weedfree Landscapes switched to Aspen Fuel two years ago, also taking delivery of one of the dedicated storage cabinets. Together with the more efficient performance of their 2-stroke machinery, Director Tim Bower notes the added safety and convenience that comes with using Aspen. "Having the fuel safely stored on-site in a dedicated cabinet means it couldn't be quicker or simpler for the team to fuel up for the day ahead. There's no unnecessary trips backwards and forwards to the filling station which results in both time and cost savings."

Also specially designed for the 5L Aspen cans is the Fillpartner Autofiller attachment, designed to make the refuelling of machines even safer and easier. The Autofiller protects you and the surrounding environment from unnecessary contact with the fuel through its unique vapour recovery system. The complete seal created between the can and the tank ensures there is no release of fuel vapours and, when the tank is full, the Autofiller automatically stops refuelling.

Diagram shows the regular petrol production process. By only using the cleanest Alkylate components from the refinery stream, Aspen fuel is 99% cleaner than regular petrol in regards to the amount of hazardous hydrocarbons

Utilising the Fillpartner is one way of reducing spillages and accidental fuel contact with the skin, and all but eliminates exposure to fumes. If you are an employer and your staff work with petrol powered machinery, it is your obligation to make sure that you are taking steps to protect them. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) recommends thoroughly assessing the risks to your health and that of your employees to identify the precautions needed. One particular topic the COSHH guidelines identify is around exposure to Benzene.

Benzene is just one of the many hydrocarbons found in conventional pump petrol. Human exposure to Benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer. The COSHH regulations advise against Benzene exposure completely, but where this cannot reasonably be done, you should be taking steps to adequately control your exposure as far as is reasonably practicable and certainly below the workplace exposure limit (WEL) assigned for Benzene of part per million (ppm) of air averaged over an 8-hour period.

You may think that Benzene exposure is unavoidable if you're operating petrol powered equipment and that largely 'petrol is petrol', but there are options available - Alkylate petrol being one, which differs vastly from traditional pump fuel. Alkylate petrol is made of gaseous hydrocarbons found in fossil fuels: these are a kind of vapour or gas that occurs when refining oil. This process is called alkylation and involves combining excess gases from the distillation of crude oil and from the cracking plant, resulting in a liquid alkylate. Once some additional components are mixed in, the result is the finished fuel which is significantly purer than traditional petrol, with content of harmful aromatic hydrocarbons such as Benzene and polyaromatics (PAH) close to zero. In fact, switching to Aspen Fuel can reduce Benzene emissions by up to 108 times!

Aspen Alkylate Petrol is virtually free from Sulphur, Benzene and many other harmful substances - its use improving the health and performance of your equipment, the working conditions for the operator and significantly reducing the harmful impact your machinery makes on the environment. Aspen is also ethanol-free, which improves the reliability of engine performance and preserves the life of component parts which can be susceptible to failure when running on conventional pump fuel, especially if it has been left for any extended period of time in storage.

The health and safety benefits for the operator, equipment and wider environment were evident almost immediately for Tim and the Weedfree Landscapes team. "Straight away we noticed the reduction in noxious fumes" he explains. "This brings fantastic health benefits for the operator, especially during prolonged periods of exposure, but it also makes for a cleaner working environment which is desirable when we're working in public spaces such as schools for example. We are also definitely seeing a reduction in the number of faults and replacement parts we're using."

There are also alkylate petrol pre-mixes available with a premium quality biodegradable 2-stroke oil, eliminating the hazards and potential damage associated with mixing, again improving safety for the operator and ensuring consistency in engine performance. Tim again, "With Aspen 2 being premixed, you know you're getting the perfect mix every time which eliminates issues associated with equipment clogging up, reducing downtime and resulting in quite substantial cost savings."

To summarise, there is much to assess and consider when it comes to commercial petrol usage and regular risk assessments should be conducted to ensure ongoing compliance with current legislation. Switching to an Alkylate Fuel has many benefits, including improvements in health and safety for the operators, customers and wider public, protection for the environment and increased efficiency and reliability of equipment.

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