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Shock safety lapses revealed at garages

PUBLISHED: 18:57 17 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 March 2010

UNDERCOVER spot checks at petrol stations across Suffolk have revealed shocking lapses in safety.

More than eight out of ten (85 per cent) of sites tested, broke the law and sold Suffolk Trading Standards officers petrol in unapproved, dangerous containers.

UNDERCOVER spot checks at petrol stations across Suffolk have revealed shocking lapses in safety.

More than eight out of ten (85 per cent) of sites tested, broke the law and sold Suffolk Trading Standards officers petrol in unapproved, dangerous containers.

The county council decided to carry out the tests, because at this time of year many people are starting to fill up lawnmowers. These people may, unwittingly, buy petrol in unsafe and illegal containers.

During the random checks, 20 sites were visited, of which 17 failed. Those tested included seven in Ipswich, seven in Bury St Edmunds and seven in Lowestoft.

At each stage of the visit, the undercover officer made his actions as open and obvious as possible to the cashier, watching to see at what point the sale would be stopped.

At each site he walked onto the forecourt carrying a black bin bag with a tin can inside.

He then tried to buy petrol illegally from the most obvious pump - often the one right in front of the cashier. At this point the cashier should have refused to authorise the delivery of petrol. After the sale was authorised he then bought the minimum amount of petrol (2 litres) and paid for it.

On once occasion, the officer was even able to buy petrol illegally at an attended site where the attendant filled the can himself.

In each case the garage owner was informed of the failure and warned that if it happened again they could face legal action.

Only three petrol stations correctly stopped the illegal sale.

Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection, Peter Monk, said: "The high failure rate is shocking and unacceptable. These breaches of safety put the public in serious danger and are illegal. Garages and petrol stations should check that all staff working on site are familiar with the regulations and what they cover.

"We've followed up these failures with the garages concerned and written to the head offices to inform them of our findings."

He added: "At this time of year people are starting to think about filling up lawnmowers or getting boats ready for the spring and summer. Its likely that garages will be approached by members of the public trying to fill up old cans they've had in the garage for years. Be warned though, it could just as easily be an undercover officer and garages risk facing prosecution for it."

He warned: "If you buy fuel in an unsuitable container it is more likely to leak or spill. With something as dangerous and volatile as petrol you risk loosing your life, or home, and probably invalidating your home insurance too."

It has not been revealed which service stations failed the test, but the Evening Star today offered random garages a chance to comment on the results.

Managers at Tesco Copdock, Asda in Goddard Road in Ipswich declined to comment on the issue.

A spokeswoman for Shell was also reluctant to comment without knowing if the company had been implicated in the tests.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

The legal limit for domestic petrol storage is 20 litres, in either 2 x 10 litre or 1 x 20 litre jerry type metal container marked with the words "petroleum spirit" and "highly flammable"

Alternatively 4 x 5 litre approved plastic containers may be used.

It is advisable to only carry in a vehicle the above amounts in the approved containers which are available from petrol stations or motoring shops.

No other type of container is permissible for buying and storing petrol.

Anyone unsure of the legal limits or correct containers for buying petrol should call the Trading Standards Advice Line on 01473 584358.


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