The HSE has recently put forward a consultative document on a revised edition of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (2002) (DSEAR) Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) regarding the safe unloading of petrol from road tankers at petrol filling stations. This is in compliance with Section 16 of the Health and Safety Act 1974 (HSW act) which requires the HSE to consult on provisions to ACOPs prior to Ministerial approval. The revisions can also apply to unloading other similar flammable substances in similar situations. The key changes to the ACOPs include greater emphasis to be put on the risk assessment element of DSEAR and contacting emergency services. There is always a risk of fire and explosion when unloading from petrol tankers. As working at heights whilst unloading of tankers rarely occurs, this guidance has been removed and signposted to separate HSE guidance so more focus can be put on the key DSEAR elements of unloading of petrol. Also, spillages, overfill issues and sources of ignition are addressed. There will be clearer definitions of some terms and greater clarity to comply with the law. The regulations themselves will remain unchanged; there are just the aforementioned revisions. The consultation ends 22 July 2014. Duty holders complying with the law do not need to change what they are already doing. However, the revisions will just make things a little clearer for them and new users wishing to comply with the law.
DESAR places duties on employers and the self-employed to protect themselves and others from fires and explosions due to what is termed their handling of ‘dangerous substances’. ‘Dangerous substances’ does not only include petrol, but anything potentially flammable such as varnishes, paints, flammable gases, LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas), dusts from foodstuffs and machinery grinding operations. DSEAR requires that control measures are put in place to reduce risks altogether or at least control them. Plans and emergency procedures should be put in place to deal with accidents and incidents, should a spillage or escape occur. Employees should be properly trained to deal with accidents and risks from dangerous substances. Hazardous explosive atmospheres should be identified and classified.
With regard to the transport, storage and unloading of petrol, the road transport operator and the site operator must work together to agree a single risk assessment procedure for the unloading of petrol (at the tanker stand and fill pipes). Employees must be consulted on the outcome of the risk assessment according to the Management Regulations, the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996. Guidance for risk assessments are available from DSEAR ACOP, the Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration (APEA) and the Energy Institute (EI). Any changes to the petrol filling station should be made clear to the tanker operator. Immediate emergency procedures include the tanker operator shutting off the foot valves, calling the emergency services and alerting the nearby public. A suitable fire extinguisher should be at hand for the tanker driver and site operator when unloading petrol.