Expert View

Suresite Health and Safety manager says in an ever-evolving industry, site safety is more important than ever

06 August 2018

Suresite has been keeping forecourts safe and maintaining compliance since 1994. H&S manager Neil Simms says in an ever-evolving industry, site safety is more important than ever

Years of austerity have had an impact on forecourt health and safety standards, with Trading Standards and Environmental Health cuts having a knock-on effect for many sites. Whilst visits are not as regular as they once were, the assumption that ‘if the petroleum officer hasn’t asked for it, then we don’t have to do it’ is incorrect. Although some enforcement visits may have reduced, health and safety obligations haven’t. Those obligations remain mandatory and are by no means a mere ‘nice to have.’

Corner cutting is not only bad for health but it’s bad for business. It takes years to build a brand and less than a minute to ruin one. For those not complying, there is the threat of legal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) or civil actions and the loss of stock, reputation and staff morale. Neglecting health and safety is not only wrong, it isn’t worth it .

Walking around forecourts we can see easily identifiable hazards such as loose and raised block paving, as well as blocked drainage, but there are potential invisible hazards too – such as what is happening underground.

Forecourts used to comprise of no more than a few dispensers and a kiosk. Now they’re attached to convenience stores, incorporating takeaways, carwashes and electric vehicle charging points. With more and more being added, the overall risk can rise too.

Sites that have recently installed EV charging points will need to consider specific control measures, such as ensuring that the equipment, charging cables and vehicles are all out of the designated hazard zones at the time of charging. We often see ATMs added with little thought for the potential impact, which could include obstructions and blocked kiosk viewpoints. For those that only have a small forecourt it can be a challenge fitting things in the correct – and safest – way.   

It’s an ever-changing scene as forecourts need to evolve to maximise business. They’re forever trying to keep on top of new developments, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of H&S.

Many of these issues could be resolved by conducting suitable and sufficient risk assessments, yet many operators don’t have the wherewithal or desire to conduct them satisfactorily.

Another common issue emerges when people make the assumption that someone else has done something – whether it is rectifying a hazard or reporting a near miss. It’s crucial to coordinate with others who may use the site. Sufficient information, instruction and training around this matter is essential.

There are no formal qualifications required to run a filling station, yet there is a need for staff competence. With kiosk staff likely to be paid around minimum wage, this can lead to high turnovers, which in turn doesn’t inspire operators to offer much in the way of training. If a staff member turns up for their shift and before they know it, someone’s collided with a dispenser, what would they do? Sufficient training would enable a faster, more suitable response to a situation like this.

Petroleum storage legislation is somewhat weaker than it was five years ago, which is mostly down to Government’s keenness to reduce red tape and get business booming. An example of this is that leaks and spills no longer legally require reporting to the Petroleum Enforcement Authority (though it is good practice to do so).

Much of the legislation in place is goal setting, meaning that it tells you where you need to be, but doesn’t give you the roadmap to get there. Guidance is required to clarify this. We have a good health and safety record in Britain for now, but there is no doubt there are sites that could be doing a lot more to protect themselves from enforcement action and civil claims – as well as incidents.

One of the biggest changes that has come out of the recent revision of the Blue Book is the update of the leak detection requirements for wetstock management. For any site with single skin tanks or lines it is now expected that the site owners engage the services of an approved third-party wetstock monitoring provider, such as Suresite. 

This amendment from simple record keeping may come as a shock to some forecourt operators. However, whilst some might find these expectations onerous and hard-to-implement, the penalties of non-compliance could be far more dramatic. The change in guidance is about raising wetstock control standards, which is intended to be a positive step in a world that is increasingly aware of the damage we do to the environment.

Looking at it another way, the implementation of wetstock management services can also lead to improvements in business performance through the reporting and monitoring provided by the wetstock management provider. So it’s good for the environment and good for business.

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