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Safety alert issued after worker burned during refueling

Tuesday, 11 February, 2020 - 13:00
Policy & legislation
Northern Territory

NT 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.