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Worker Hospitalised After Ingesting Fuel

As well as being flammable, WorkSafe reminds businesses of the other dangers surrounding petrol and its toxicity after a fuel siphoning incident earlier this month.

On Tuesday 7 July 2021, a worker in West Auckland ingested an unknown quantity of unleaded fuel while priming a siphon to transfer fuel from one portable generator to another. He was taken to the nearest medical centre where the doctor that examined him admitted him to Middlemore A&E. He underwent a nasal lavage and was kept under observation for several hours before being discharged.

WorkSafe’s advice is to never swallow petrol or diesel or attempt to use the mouth to siphon it. This can result in it entering the lungs or stomach, which can be fatal.

If you accidentally swallow petrol, call a doctor at once. Do not induce vomiting.

If you get petrol in your eyes, flush with water for at least 15 minutes and call a doctor.

Petrol on your skin may not initially appear to be a problem, but prolonged or repeated liquid contact can lead to irritation or dermatitis.

Breathing petrol fumes is dangerous. Exposure to vapour concentrations can cause respiratory irritation, headache, dizziness, nausea and loss of coordination. Higher concentrations may cause loss of consciousness, cardiac sensitisation, coma and death resulting from respiratory failure.

Petroleum vapour can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and exposure to high concentrations, particularly in confined spaces, can cause dizziness and unconsciousness.

Auckland Transport put out a safety alert following the incident, advising workers to always follow the handling instructions contained in the safety data sheet when working with substances that are hazardous to human health and the environment.

“Always be aware of the first aid measures required for exposure to specific hazardous substances,” Auckland Transport says.

It also reminded managers to ensure that workers are trained in the safe handling and storage of
hazardous substances as detailed in the relevant safety data sheets.

Auckland Transport echoed WorkSafe’s advice by expressing it does not condone any type of siphon to be used on its worksites.

“This safety alert is a reminder to all contractors to remove siphoning from all standard operating procedures and work method statements.”

Aside from being poisonous, petrol is also highly flammable and is one of the most hazardous substances that we use. Because it is so easily ignited, it must be handled with great care.

WorkSafe advises:

  • No naked lights in the vicinity of petrol
  • Never smoke within 20 metres of petrol
  • Never refuel a hot engine or an engine that is running. Shut down the engine and let it cool off for at least 10 minutes. The highest temperatures attained by a small engine occur immediately after shutdown, so it is not safe to refuel then.
  • Use only approved petrol containers. When transporting containers, be sure they are secured in the vehicle. Fill containers to no more than 95 percent of the container to allow room for thermal expansion. Be sure your containers have secure lids.
  • Never remove the cap from a petrol tank while the engine is hot, combustible vapour can flow out and come in contact with manifolds, exhaust pipes and other hot engine parts.
  • Do not leave petrol containers in direct sunlight or in the boot of a car.
  • Never store petrol containers or equipment with petrol tanks near a flame, for example natural gas water heaters or heating systems.
  • Do not use electronic equipment such as cell phones near petrol. A spark from the electronics could ignite the petrol.
  • When fuel is transferred from a container into a vehicle, follow basic health and safety precautions:
  • Decant (pour) in the open air – not inside the garage;
  • Use a pouring spout or funnel.
  • If clothing is splashed with fuel, change it immediately.

Take care when filling your vehicle’s fuel tank or appropriate approved container. Spillages or leaks pose a number of hazards, so do not overfill your tank and make sure that the filler cap is securely in place and not leaking. Fuel expands and vapour can build up in hot weather, so avoid filling to the brim.

A spark from static electricity can ignite petrol. Static electricity is more of a problem under low humidity conditions, but you should always be aware of the potential problem and take steps to avoid sparks from static electricity.

  • Avoid sliding on or off the seat of a mower or tractor while fuelling; a static charge and spark can result.
  • Place your hand on a metal part of the machine, away from the fuel tank, to discharge any static electricity before you open the fuel tank and fuel can.
  • When filling petrol containers at a service station, place the container on the ground. Do not leave it in the bed of a truck or in a vehicle. Hold the nozzle in constant contact with the container while filling.

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