Although the most comprehensive underground storage tank (UST) training falls on the shoulders of the owner/operator (Class A) and the person responsible for the operations and maintenance of the UST system (Class B), it is the daily on-site employee (Class C) who more often than not will be the first responder to emergencies such as spills, fires and leaks at the facility.

The most important questions you can have as an owner/operator of a UST system is “are my employees prepared for any and all emergencies?” and “are my employees ready to take necessary action in the event of an emergency?”.

These are not questions to be taken lightly, as potential incidents at your facility can range from a small overspill during fueling operations to death caused from vehicular traffic or fire. Following are examples of just a few incidents that have occurred at gasoline stations across the country.

Tragedy Can Happen

A typical day can end in tragedy as it did in this horrific accident in Colorado Springs that resulted in the death of 18-year old Whitney Hendrickson.  According to police a red 2003 Ford Explorer heading southwest through the parking lot of the convenience store slammed into the right rear side of a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado pickup parked at a pump opposite Hendrickson. The impact forced the truck into the gas pump, which dislodged it and caused gasoline to spew out. The pump pinned Hendrickson against her minivan as the gasoline ignited.

It was reported that the fire department arrived on-site in less than two minutes and that it was someone in the parking lot that ran and hit an emergency shutoff valve located outside the store. Based on the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, it may have not been avoidable but it serves notice that every second counts when dealing with an emergency at a fuel dispensing facility.


Fires Resulting from Improperly Filling Gas Cans

There have been many incidents where fires spontaneously ignited when customers attempted to fill portable gasoline containers in the backs of pickup trucks equipped with plastic bed liners or in cars with carpeted surfaces. Results have included serious skin burns, other injuries, and even death.

It is important that the attendant is aware of what activity is going on at the dispenser island. If a fire does break out the employee should engage the emergency stop button, have all customers leave the area, consider the risks and location of the fire before attempting to put it out, and call the fire department immediately.


Spills Resulting from Unattended Vehicles

A new study in the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology suggests that even the small droplets of gas that fall to the concrete when returning the nozzle from your vehicle to the dispenser pileup could leach out into the environment around the gas station, polluting air, water, and soil. A customer may leave their vehicle unattended during the fuel process while they enter the store to purchase their morning coffee, use the restroom, or step away to make a phone call.

In reality there is really no good reason to leave your vehicle unattended during the fueling process. A fuel overspill can lead to a minor surface spill that is easily contained to a larger spill that can enter a storm drain and impact water sources.


Spills Resulting from Improper Fuel Deliveries

Oftentimes a fuel spill occurs as a result of overfilling USTs during a fuel delivery.  There are a number of overfill protection devices that either shut off product flow, restrict product flow, or alert the delivery operator with an alarm when the tank is close to being full.  It is important that the on-site employee observes the fuel delivery process for signs of failure, listens for an alarm warning from the automatic tank gauge system, and takes note of any strong petroleum odors that may indicate a spill.  If any of these overfill devices fail, the quick actions of the attendant can make the difference between a large out of control spill or a manageable inconvenience.

Of course, the on-site attendant has to know what to do in case of these emergencies but the first step is recognizing the hazard.


Spills Also Affect Nearby Businesses

A fuel spill at your facility can affect more than just you and the surrounding environment. It can also have a negative impact on the businesses and livelihoods of those nearby.


ATC offers Class A, B and C UST Operator Training through our Eclipse Fuel System Management Division. Click here to learn more and to sign up.