Preventing fires and explosions during fuel transfers

by WorkSafeBC

Since 2014, two fuel transfer workers in B.C. were seriously injured from explosions caused by a mix of fuel and static electricity. Tragically, one died.

Once generated, static electricity can remain stored in fuel, or on fuel transfer equipment, without any indication it’s there. It is generated in hoses and pipes during the distribution and transfer of diesel, gasoline, or other flammable or combustible liquids. If it is not controlled adequately, static electricity can be released in the form of sparks that act as ignition sources and result in catastrophic fires or explosions.

Everyone in the fuel transfer industry needs to be aware of this risk. As this industry evolves and faces increased consumer demands, so too do risks that affect workers’ safety. Workplace safety must remain top of mind when we consider new technologies, products, and processes for improving efficiency.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulatory Amendments

Improving the health and safety for fuel transfer and distribution employees is the goal behind recent amendments to B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation.

In effect December 1, 2021, the amendments include these additions to Parts 1, 5, 22, and 23:

  • An update of the definition of flammable liquid to ensure consistency with the B.C. Fire Code
  • A requirement for ignition sources to be eliminated or adequately controlled where combustible liquids normally used as fuel are handled, used, and stored
  • An expansion of bonding and grounding requirements that include all gases and liquids that pose a risk of fire or explosion

Choose the right hose for the job

Through WorkSafeBC inspections, it’s been discovered that transfer hoses are sometimes being used for fuels they were not designed for. In addition to this, there was a lack of regular testing and inspecting of fuel transfer hoses as part of a preventative maintenance program. It’s critical to use fuel-transfer hoses that are effectively bonded and grounded and meet the ULC standard for dissipating static electricity.

Always select a fuel hose that is appropriate for the fuel being transferred. For example, a hose that is designed for diesel fuel may not be designed for transferring gasoline. Despite looking similar, many reel-mounted fuel hoses have different applications and manufacturer’s instructions.

It’s important to talk to hose suppliers and vehicle maintenance contractors to ensure fuel transfer hoses have been properly selected and maintained. Workers with questions or concerns about static discharge should speak with their supervisor or safety committee representative.

Install bonding and grounding controls

Fuel delivery vehicles must have effective bonding and grounding controls in place, including:

  • Grounded loading racks
  • Fuel hoses with internal bonding wires
  • Insulated bonding wires and clips

Provide training for all fuel delivery drivers

Training for delivery drivers must include WHMIS, Transportation of Dangerous Goods, and training specific to fuel delivery activities, such as the Canadian Fuels Association Driver Certification Program.

Employers must identify hazards and communicate about them with workers. Workers need to know what controls they need for safety. This includes knowing how to:

  • Conduct comprehensive risk assessments
  • Review processes and understand hazards
  • Aid in the development of effective safe work procedures
  • Implement suitable controls to mitigate fires and explosions

Inspect clients’ storage tanks and equipment

Storage tanks and equipment at fuel delivery locations are usually not within the fuel distributors’ control. But fuel distributors still need to ensure that clients’ storage tanks and equipment can safely receive fuel. This includes inspecting sites and equipment for hazards that could harm a worker during delivery and transfer.

Fuel distributors need to ensure:

  • Tanks and equipment can be safely accessed and are in a state of good repair
  • Fuel delivery trucks can be bonded to the receiving storage tank/equipment or the fuel delivery vehicle and receiving storage tank/equipment can both be grounded during fuel transfer
  • The bonding connection point on the tank receiving fuel is identified and maintained (e.g. metal is not painted or corroded, and effectiveness is verified through electrical testing)
  • Customer storage tanks have bonding connection points

Performing pre-inspections and maintenance

Fuel transfer hoses and bonding/grounding equipment can become worn out or damaged. It is important that workers do pre-inspections, along with scheduled maintenance checks. Fuel hose certification and electrical continuity tests must be completed by a qualified individual, and the employer should maintain records of this maintenance activity.

Testing electrical continuity at regular intervals

Electrical continuity needs to be tested at regular intervals, to ensure hose assemblies maintain bonding capabilities. It also needs to be tested after a fuel hose is assembled to ensure internal bonding wires are functioning as intended.

Electrical continuity tests are also used to verify that loading racks and fuel storage tanks are effectively grounded. They ensure that vehicle-mounted wires and clips can maintain an electrical bond between the delivery vehicle and the tank or equipment receiving fuel.

WorkSafeBC resources associated with this amendment, include:

Additional resources and information

Resources on provide information on compliance with the OHSR, as well as measures to ensure a safe environment for workers.

Questions for WorkSafeBC?

WorkSafeBC officers are also available to answer any questions and can be reached through the WorkSafeBC Prevention Line:

Phone: 604.276.3100 (Lower Mainland)

Toll-free: 1.888.621.7233 (1.888.621.SAFE) (Canada)

Have your say

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  • I have been in the industry for over 30 years. Now everyone is filling mobile equipment and simply bonding. The fuel delivery truck is not grounded and the mobile truck or machinery is not. CFA does not support Truck to Truck unless in an emergency.

    Are you stating fuel trucks should have confirmatory bonding and grounding systems like at the fuel terminal racks. They exist.