The removal of fuel from vehicles is probably the most dangerous activity undertaken at a garage. Whereas most significant hazards should be avoided where practicable, fuel retrieval is often needed to ensure that another job can be completed safely.

Fires and explosions that occur during the emptying of motor vehicle fuel tanks (or work on or close to them) are a major cause of death, serious injury and property damage in the trade. Rigorous safety precautions are needed wherever fuel extraction takes place.

A fire or explosion can destroy your premises physically, but, as well as this, the disruption and loss of equipment and materials can lead the business into a financial and customer relations crisis. Ensuring that all necessary precautions are taken when fuel has to be removed from a vehicle is a vital part of preventing a fire or explosion in your premises and protecting your employees.

Please note:

LPG gas, dual/bifuel, or natural gas-fuelled vehicles are not covered by the hints and tips which follow.

Key actions for safe fuel retrieval

  • Consider whether fuel retrieval can safely be avoided or if it can be done another, safer, way. Ensure that a risk assessment is carried out for the task.
  • Check that your fire safety and health and safety risk assessment have looked at the hazards associated with fuel retrieval.
  • Make certain that employees who have to undertake this task have the right training, knowledge and experience, a safe place to do it in and suitable equipment that ensures the safety of themselves, anyone who may be nearby, and property. Provide a safe system of work (SSOW) document and record all associated training.
  • Designate an area where fuel retrieval can be carried out safely with the right type of equipment readily available and in good working order.
  • Plan ahead and make sure all necessary precautions that your risk assessment and regulatory requirements have identified are put in place.
  • Eliminate any ignition sources before the task of fuel retrieval begins. Remember to consider unseen ignition hazards, such as a spark from a build-up of static electricity. Control of the static electricity hazard is required for compliance with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) and includes the consideration of employees’ clothing.
  • Don’t allow ’salvaged’ fuel to be kept unnecessarily, particularly in any part of a workplace not specifically designed for such storage (in accordance with DSEAR).

Templates that may help with fuel retrieval

Fire risk assessment

Assessment form

Fire risk checklist

Risk assessments

Example form

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.

Related topics

There are a variety of issues that require fuel to be retrieved as a control measure for work to be done safely, and alongside these topics general considerations need to be made to make operations involving fuel safe.