Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This aint no beer barrel polka

Fuel being mishandled at gas stations
It goes on more than you think
And clerks often condone it?

I was in one of those convenience /pizza/and gas station type stores the other day when I watched a cocky acting young man pull up to the pumps in a flashy red sport Pickup and start loading gasoline into a pair of 55 gallon steel drums that had hand pumps on them. Which were sitting on a bed liner. I immediately identified myself to the clerk as a Fire Investigator at which time I was wearing one of my many different fire dept shirts and told her she should not allow him to fill those drums as he was creating a very hazardous situation because of how static electricity can build up on a bed liner. Most pumps already have warning stickers on them about using only approved containers and placing them on the ground and not leaving them on pick up beds or in car trunks. She told me he was with the local car dealership and did this every week. She did not seemed the least bit worried about the chance this young fool could blow up the entire station with what he was doing and unfortunately there was no manager on duty to talk to. How ever I did call the dealership and the secretary who took the call seemed very concerned and said she would let the appropriate person know what was going on to make sure it did not happen again.
I followed this up with a letter to the county Fire Marshal who I hope took appropriate measures to see that this practice was stopped, as 110 gallons of gasoline was not being handled correctly. But this brings up the more important issue of properly training clerks
At gas stations to enforce pumping rules in the first place. This is what I saw at a Sheets convenience store in December of 1999. A mid 30’s something man again with a 55 gallon drum on the back of his truck worried about the Y2K problem was going to store some gas at his home pulls up next to me and starts filling it. I advised him he should not do it
He curses at me so I went into the store notified the manager who immediately shut off the pump and went out to inform this individual he was not to fill the unapproved container. The local police had to be called because of the ruckus this individual was causing and was escorted from the premises.
Although they claim there has not been a significant increase in incidents at gas stations
Since most have gone self serve and many have excellent safety features there has been a significant increase in spill calls. And when clerks do not pay attention and allow drums and other inappropriate items to be filled this is just a disaster that is waiting to happen and has happened at various times in ours and surrounding states as well. When gas stations explode.
Employees are not getting adequate training, paying attention or let drums get filled every week because they do not want to loose a sale. All of which puts everyone within vicinity of the station at risk of severe injury or death because proper measures are not followed.
This same thing happens at professional fueling terminals when a lazy tank driver or fuel transfer employee fails to install a portable grounding jumper to tanks etc when transferring fuels or the terminal fails to keep portable grounds in good shape.
I recently had a customer who is in the specialty oil blending and oil recycling business
Had a bad scare when a special dirty turbine 20w50 weight oil they were transferring from a steel tank thru a rubber hose and several filters and then by 1 ½” rubber hose to a fiberglass tank to get it ready to go thru Centravac cleaner started arcing from the Fiberglass Tank to the floor. They shut down operations took a portable ground jumper over which they would not normally use in such an operation and drew a 6” spark off of the tank. Which is not suppose to happen. Luckily there was no exposed oil to catch fire and it is low flash and other then the employee getting the scare of his life and a strong shock. This could have been a very serious situation. . It is now policy to ground strap these tanks pumps and filters etc. because they now know it is possible to happen again. Engineers have still not been able to explain what happened. Static electricity is fun to play with in the class room but can be deadly in any type of fuel handling facility be it a gas station or even one fuel pump at a farm.
This is why we as first responders must be ever vigilant and report problems we see to appropriate persons in charge to prevent catastrophes from happening and by keeping fire prevention training and code enforcement a top priority. No one is watching our backs
Everyone expects us to watch there’s.

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