Pumping Fuel Hazards

I recently filled my Ute at our local BP servo which has all the normal sticker signs not to use your Mobile phone while fuelling up. Now above these is a new sign promoting their new APP to pay for your fuel at the bowser using your phone. I contacted BP online to suggest their Sales Dept talk to their Safety Dept and await their reply.


I’m pretty sure the stickers about mobile phones starting fires are based on an urban myth*, so I wouldn’t be concerned!

  • “current emitting devices” is what I saw on one sign… whatever the heck that might be!

In Indonesia, Pertamina petrol stations are spreading into the paddy fields, where the stalks of the crop are commonly burnt. I noticed one new service station, with paddy fields on 3 sides. Blazoned along one high wall was a sign banning any burning off, still visible through the smoke.


You are correct - this one is simply a big load of rubbish, but in fairness how would the average person know? I guess the most obvious hint is that while mobiles have to some degree always transmitted to ‘check in’ with their evil masters (the Telco), now even moreso with mobile data the phone could be going ape in your pocket talking to your email, social media, whatever else - transmitting gratuitously without a care in the world that both you and it are about to disappear in a massive conflagration without even making or receiving a call … because, you wont. This is fuel company butt covering on a massive scale - and it’s so ridiculous it’s almost the poster child for hoaxes.

Here’s just a couple of references:




We could do a mythdefied on this - but seriously, it’s already defied.



I can see that it is important to have full attention then filling up, as it is possible that the auto-cut-off may not work and if one is distracted by a phone call rather than looking at the nozzle, the tank could more easily overflow (more fuel than otherwise the case increasing risk of fire)…

There are also potential audio safety warnings which one might not hear when on the phone…for example, evacuate due to a fire.

I wonder if this is why the myth originally perpetuated. … as it was easier to blame the phone than a unfocused customer?


Chalk this myth up as ‘busted’ :sunglasses:.

With that considered, it is pretty interesting that petrol stations persist with the warning. Good topic @wj.ca.


Maybe they are worried that their customers have watched Bear Grylls?

And think they will do the same when filling up. But I suppose other sources of ignition pose a substantially greater risk.


And yet it has been taken on as standard practice that use of mobiles is not allowed, with so many warning signs - so no one is prepared to take the risk that it is not a hoax.


It’s a crazy situation, you’d think that someone in the fuel companies would have enough science knowledge to know it is nonsense and put a stop to the ridiculous signs.

I’d suggest that touching the signs is a vastly more dangerous thing to do, if you have a bit of static electric charge. I’m sure that static electricity is considered to be the cause of many petrol station fires.


The BPMe app does tell you that you need to use your phone within your car only. I found the app to be useless though, took about 30 seconds to unlock the pump and then about a minute for the payment to go through. All the while the cars behind me are wondering why I’m sitting in my car instead of filling up and then after I’ve filled up are wondering why I’m sitting in my car instead of going in to pay for my fuel.


better avoid being stabbed in the pocket where the phone is then!


Not true! I’ve seen lots of young ones on their phones while filling up. Perhaps they couldn’t read??


Yet I can sit in my car in the service station and transfer funds to pay for my fuel. Never been told to not use my phone then.


Lol this topic reminded me of travelling to Ardlethan with my uncle as a kid. He was a fuel truckie for Shell for decades and had retired by this point, but used to scare the bejesus out of me every time we stopped at a servo. Being a chain smoker he always had a smoke hanging out the corner of his mouth as he filled the car. I was often thinking “This is my last day on this planet” and many times I’d see a panicked servo attendant flying out of his warm premises, skin deathly pale as he yelled at my uncle. My uncle used to just laugh at them, tell them how many years he’d carted fuel around the country, finish filling up then go in and pay. I eventually got brave enough to ask him to stop and he told me there was never any danger anyway, as the ignition point is too high for a cigarette to ignite it.

I did find out years later of course that he was right up to a point - a lit cigarette will not in normal circumstances ignite petrol, however a cigarette that is actively being smoked has a chance to ignite petrol fumes.


I had a similar experience at a factory where there was a de-greasing station near the time clock. This was a long time ago when there were time clocks and you got paid in cash and you could smoke at work. Yes gentle reader all those things were possible once upon a time!

The trick was as the crew lined up to collect pay envelopes to smoke a ciggy and then to put it out in a drum of de-greaser. I often wondered what would happen if there was a bit of cotton waste to act as wick on the edge of the drum and the hot butt touched it. I was the butt of the jokes as I always got well away. The supervisors would laugh along with the rest.

The company was British Leylands and they were an exemplar of rotten and destructive industrial and staff relations. They are out of business now.


I was recently on my phone in the car and stepped out to put petroleum in my car. The bowser was stopped and I was yelled at by the attendant over the loud speaker. It was embarrassing and awful. After paying for my petrol, I checked out the bowser to see if there was a sign or something. All I could find was a tiny orange sticker. Ridiculous.


Had a similar thing happen to me and attendant turned off bowser as I was on the phone then told they had seen with their own eyes a bowser burst into flames I used to cart fuel for Mobil and told them they where mistaken that it is impossible the petroleum industry need to clarify this as it’s ridiculous


I had a similar experience when I was filling up Jerry Cans in back of ute with Diesel for my Tractor when the bowser stopped and the attendant came out and pointed out the signs ticking me off , had to put plastic Jerry cans onto the ground, I realise they didn’t make the rule, someone in the safety department at a guess. About Mobile phones it could be referring to the old phones, the newer ones are nearly waterproof and this probably makes them Intrinsically Safe from sparks. Back to original problem, I still haven’t heard from BP.


If you have any sparks in a phone, there is something seriously wrong with it, sealed or not doesn’t matter. About the only way you could get a spark from a mobile phone component is by directly shorting out the battery… maybe that’s what the automotive fossil fool industry thinks people do?

Very low voltage and current, solid state electronics etc = no sparks. Static electricity, often at tens of thousands of volts, is what can ignite petrol.


There is a significant risk during refuelling related to static charges, and such charges have caused in the past and will continue to cause fire events particularly when the atmospheric humidity is high.
So there is a risk when sliding in and out of modern cars with synthetic fabric seats and wearing synthetic fabric clothing also arguably sliding ones phone in and out of the pockets of synthetic clothing could produce a static discharge creating a fire risk but not a risk not due to mobile radio emissions this has already been debunked.

It is a good habit to touch the cars body or the dispenser pump outer housing before lifting there nozzle to ground out any static charges present on your own clothing.