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Pumping Fuel Hazards


Usually static charges are stronger when the humidity is low. Water molecules in the air tend to carry away charge.


As syncretic mentioned above, it is a greater risk when the humidity is low, as the air is a better insulator then, allowing higher charge to accumulate, making for bigger spark discharges.


I agree the risk is incredibly low… and then I think of Samsung. :upside_down_face:


Yes, or anything metal.

Maybe the manufacturers of the browsers could install say a brass or copper raised disc on the hand piece which ensures that the person is earthed when picking up the nozzle. Currently nozzle hand pieces are covered in a insulating plastic compound. Wearing gloves won’t be an issue because if the hand can’t be earthed because of the gloves, then it won’t create a spark when the nozzle is placed in the car.

An earthing point on the nozzle could win a design award of the year and remove any potential static based fuel fires from petrol tank gas escaping…might go an patent it now.


Some thermo plastics are anti-static and conductive, so it isn’t impossible that the plastic on the handles is conductive/earthed.

"ATEX – Eliminating explosion risks in hazardous athmospheres

Ensuring people and environment safety is the most important issue when vapors, gases and dusts are processed, transported and used.

ATEX directive (1999/92/EC) regulates the use of plastic materials both in hazardous areas (ATEX zones) and in the equipment used in those areas.

Electrically conductive plastic compounds are ATEX applicable plastic materials. They fulfill the surface resistance requirement set for plastic materials in used ATEX applications." from


That may or may not help! Sometimes the car can be statically charged, so placing an earthed bowser nozzle near the fuel tank could cause a spark, right where you don’t want it. The car is not normally electrically bonded to earth, as it rests on 4 insulating rubber tyres, and in dry air a charge can build up. Remember the conducting rubber strips that used to hang from the backs of cars? I’m certainly old enough to remember when they were very common :wink: I haven’t seen them on any new cars, yet back in the 1970s/80s they were very common. They prevented any static charge build-up on the car.


In 1995 I bought a new Holden Statesman. At the time I always wore long business slacks and business shirts for work as an owner/manager.
Quite often when I would alight from the vehicle, especially after a long drive and/or when the weather was very dry, I would get an electric shock when I touched the vehicle which was quite disconcerting.
I had the Holden dealer check the vehicle but they could not find a problem with it.
I started to flick the chrome trim on the gutter with my knuckles each time I alighted the vehicle so as to minimise the shock.
I have occasionally experienced it with other vehicles but never with the severity or frequency of the Statesman.
We now have a Honda CR-V which we bought to replace our Series 3 Honda CR-V and I have never experienced it with either of them.
On a slightly different note, when I worked for the electricity generating authority in the 1960’s, we had to replace the interfaces between the powerline carrier communications systems and the 132KV transmission lines as part of the total replacement of the old systems which we were commissioning.
On one occasion we were working in the substation switchyard on an unenergized line which was separated by a reasonable distance from an energised line. We had to stand on aluminium stepladders which sat on the blue metal in the yard whilst we carried out the work.
Everytime we touched the galvanised tower, we would get an uncomfortable belt until we worked out that if we kept a leg in contact with the tower, we would not get a belt. I certainly would never live in proximity of a high voltage transmission line.
A few years ago, SBS had a series of documentaries on US industry, one of which featured live line repairers who searched for and repaired damaged sections of the 400KV transmission line between New Jersey and New York.
They carried out their work flying in a Bell 47 helicopter whilst the lines were energised. They would reach out with an insulated pole which they would clamp onto the conductor which would draw a short arc before the helicopter was at the same potential as the transmission line. I assume that their pay was very good.


One has to love Americans’ love for comfort. It was hot In SE Georgia and A/C was struggling.

Two fills at two different servos and I did not see a single vehicle engine being stopped while refuelling. To do so was to let the vehicle heat up… Since so few US servos blow up perhaps that is also folklore. (/satire)


I overlooked the fact that our first Honda CR-V had wool fleece seat covers and our present one has leather seats whilst the Holden Statesman and the other vehicles that I received shocks from all had synthetic material covered seats. Presumably the static electricity is not generated when clothing is in contact with wool or leather.
On another note, you cannot see a better example of the power and danger of static electricity than the lightning discharges during a thunderstorm.


The short version re safety around fuel dispensing bowsers:
The design and manufacture of the pumps, hoses nozzles etc are covered by regulation and standards. The intent of these is to minimise the risks of ignition from sources such as static discharges. The designs require conductive hoses etc and specific earthing protections. The designs are intended to limit the energy of any static discharge while minimising potential differences. And thus fuel igniting. Perhaps there is room for refinement of all the risk analysis and engineering to date?

The long version is a complex scientific discussion of the nature of static electricity and fuel ignition based on vapour points and air fuel ratios. Plus a small dose of reality and the human ignorance/stupidity factor?

Fortunately but also to the annoyance of some of us the current rules and regulation around fuel dispensing and transfer may err to over caution. Probably still a good thing given no matter where the line is drawn some of us choose to always test, stretch or ignore what is required to keep the rest of us from harm.

And in the old days not only did our local pump attendant smoke dumping the durry in a bin at the bowser. Service stations were often in the news per my recollection for catching fire! With perhaps ten times the number of cars in use now this would appear a far less frequent event! Just as well as fuel is now much more than 6c/l and too expensive to burn.