Exercise safety at the fuel pump



Commentary by Lt. Col. Geoffrey Gibbs
Chief of Safety, 42nd Air Base Wing


8/23/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- The signs are there for all to see, staring down the patron at the pump, begging to be seen ... and yet completely ignored by many. The signs are there for the patron's safety, reminding them of things to avoid while at the pump, things that ought to be pretty common sense, such as not having an open flame, like a lighter or a cigarette, near fuel pumps or leaving your vehicle unattended while pumping.

YouTube is replete with videos of individuals not following the signs or not paying attention, suffering the consequences of their actions with drastic results: folks getting in and out of their vehicle repeatedly, building up a static charge that sparks a flame as they reach for the pump nozzle; others not properly shutting down and securing their vehicle, walking away totally oblivious to their vehicle rolling away into traffic; people not properly grounding their gas can while refueling; and others using their cellphone as a flashlight in an area of high fuel-fume concentration, all with disastrous results.

Thankfully, nothing that drastic has happened at Maxwell or Gunter, and I think everyone can agree that we would like to keep it that way. Yet, we still have people leaving their running vehicles unattended (and not just at the fuel pump), we do have some who choose to talk on their cell phones while refueling or get in and out of their vehicle without thinking that they might be building up a static charge. Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it couldn't. Fact is, our gas stations have had fuel spills due to unattended pumps, which were thankfully caught in a timely fashion and cleaned up. We all carry a responsibility to be aware of the warning signs and follow them.

In the aviation career field, personnel must abide by several "Notes, Warnings and Cautions" in daily operations. As the saying goes, "they were written in blood," meaning someone was hurt or even died as a result of not following the warning or the proper procedure. The same applies to cautions and warnings that we might run across in our daily lives. They're often a result of someone getting hurt by not being aware of an inherent danger of what they were doing.

Take the time to be aware of the warning signs that are around, and be willing to mentor those who might not be aware of those signs.