Go boating – Stay safe Safe Use Of Petrol

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Boat Safety Scheme Examination

Go boating – Stay safe

Avoiding Fire Afloat – Safe Use of Petrol

Petrol has been used on boats for over one

hundred years.

Many thousands of safe refuelling operations have been completed during this

period, but all too easily things can go wrong with tragic consequences.

Treat petrol with respect. Every year, boat fires and explosions due to the

ignition of petrol vapour cause injury and destruction. This guide explains how

to reduce the risk to you, your family and your crew by using and storing

petrol safely because…

Petrol can be a hazard. Here’s why…

… it’s very volatile – that’s to say petrol evaporates easily and quickly and gives rise to highly flammable vapours. Significant amounts of petrol vapour will be produced and released whenever petrol is transferred from one container to another or poured into a petrol tank. Spills, splashes from the pouring action and any petrol leaks will produce further vapour.

Boats are designed to keep water out of their hulls – which means they also act as good containers for any leaks or overflows of petrol or for escapes of petrol vapour. Be aware, petrol vapour is three to four times heavier than air. So it will spread rapidly in the still air of spaces, such as cabins, cockpits and bilges, building up from the lowest levels.

If this petrol vapour is ignited, the resulting flash burn may injure or kill anyone it catches. It could also start a fire that may flashback to the filler, the tank or the container with very serious consequences.

• Be careful when doing ‘hot work’ such as paint stripping, soldering .

What’s more, petrol floats on the surface of water, so spills on the water may cause fires some distance away from the source.


Prevention is better than cure – Recommended

practices that'll help keep you safe

Regular checks and timely maintenance will keep your boat and your crew safe.

Seek advice from your local boatyard.

Operate and maintain petrol engines and all components in accordance with the

manufacturer's recommendations. Particular attention should be given to the

maintenance and servicing of carburettors and fuel pumps.

Make sure any changes to the engine and fuel system are in accordance with the

most recent versions of relevant British Standards and are maintained to Boat

Safety Scheme requirements.

Replacement outboard fuel tanks should be ones approved by the manufacturer

for use with the make and model of your engine. This will provide the best

guarantee that the tank will not fail as a result of the corrosive nature of the fuel

or if it is dropped.

Check flexible hoses, tanks, cocks and vent terminals as well as filler caps, lids and

their seals regularly for signs of deterioration and leaks. Replace where necessary.

Don't allow bodge jobs! Only use components that are suitable for use with petrol

and always use a competent person to carry out work on your petrol system.

Don’t carry additional petrol on board unless it is

completely unavoidable, but if you must, reduce

the risk by…

… limiting the capacity! Don’t forget that UK law allows you only to carry

restricted amounts of spare petrol. Petrol deteriorates over time and stored fuel

can upset carburation. It may affect your engine when it’s most needed.

… using proper cans, specifically designed for petrol. Containers not designed to

carry petrol could split and leak, especially if the container is dropped or

subjected to rough treatment.

… keeping petrol containers, outboard motors and petrol generators secured in

the open air or in a fire resistant drained locker outside the cabin space.

… and never use an open container to hold or transfer petrol. For the same

reason, never use a bucket or open container to mix petrol and two-stroke oil,

add the oil to the engine’s tank before filling with petrol.

Refuelling? Remember safety first

Before refuelling your inboard fuel

tank, outboard, generator, etc.

• Stop the engine.

• Turn off all cooking, heating and lighting appliances and

extinguish all other naked flames.

• Turn off ignition systems on all appliances.

• Switch off your mobile phone.

And whilst refuelling remember

• Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke anywhere

nearby or anywhere that petrol vapour could reach.

• Don’t touch electric switches.

• Never be tempted to use your mobile phone, keep it safe in

your pocket or bag.

• Never allow children to handle petrol and keep them well

away from refuelling activities.

And then after refuelling…

… check for and wipe up any spills or overflows straightaway.

Dispose of the wipe carefully – remember it will give off

vapour for some time.

… if you smell petrol vapour, ventilate the boat. Open doors

and windows and raise deck boards until the air is clear

throughout the cabin space and bilges before you start the

engine or use before naked lights again.

… if fitted, run the bilge blower system according to the

manufacturer’s instructions.

… tightly secure the filler cap.

Stay safe when filling fixed, inboard

fuel tanks

Routinely keep your family or crew off the boat during the

refuelling activity.

Make sure you have closed the fuel cock between the petrol

tank and the engine.

Introduce a physical barrier to vapour entering the hull by

closing all hatches, doors and windows and raising the

cockpit canopy.

Make sure you use the correct filler point and avoid

overfilling by carefully checking the amount of fuel you

need with a dipstick or gauge.

Stay safe when refuelling portable

fuel tanks, outboard engines,

Remove the outboard tank, generator or container ashore

for filling, ideally at least four metres (13 feet) away from

any opening into the boat, or any other enclosed space,

including drains.

On hot sunny days or where the container is warmer than

the surrounding air, more petrol vapour may be released

under pressure when you undo the cap or seal. Consider

protecting your boat from stray vapours as above.

Avoid spills by using the right size and design of funnel or

pouring aid.

Petrol can be a hazard, but it’s not the only one…

… you can also apply much of the advice in this leaflet to the use of other

flammable liquids on board such as diesel, paraffin, paint, solvents etc.

Caravan LPG refrigerators on boats with petrol engines…

… have caused numerous explosions when the low-level permanent flame of the

fridge burner ignited stray vapours. So don’t risk using one! Choose only roomsealed

refrigerators, which are suitable for marine use.


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