No threat to farm fuel supplies
18 May 2006
Information distributed to South Island farmers about the filling of underground petrol tanks is misleading and has caused unnecessary concern among farmers, the Department of Labour says.
The Department understands some farmers had received information from their local fuel supplier saying a change in the law meant underground petrol tanks could no longer be filled.
Chief advisor, health and safety, Mike Cosman said this was not correct.
“There is no change in the legislation, nor has it become ‘illegal’ for farmers to fill underground petrol tanks. The requirement that underground tanks be gravity-filled has been around for the last 20 years.”
The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act prohibits the filling of underground tanks with petrol except by gravity. The rule applies to petrol only, not diesel.
“Since this requirement first came into effect in 1985, rural delivery suppliers have been equipped to carry out ‘gravity dumps’ into underground tanks on farms, and gravity feeding is the recognised method.” Mr Cosman said.
“Underground tanks can be filled so long as it’s in compliance with the HSNO Act.”
Mr Cosman said the majority of underground tanks on farms could be filled with petrol by gravity dump. There was nothing to stop farmers pumping petrol out of the tanks.
There were safety and environmental reasons for the requirement to gravity-fill underground petrol tanks, he said. Risks associated with pump-filling included vapours, risk of overfilling and risk of tanks splitting due to pressure.
“Appropriate safe practices must be adopted when filling is being carried out, particularly the need to ensure steps are in place to prevent static sparking and over-filling. Responsibility for safe operation remains with the owner and supplier in protecting the user and environment from unnecessary risks.”
The Department of Labour will investigate any incident that occurs with such tank filling or if a complaint is received, Mr Cosman said.
From 1 April 2007, all underground tanks are required to comply with the HSNO Act, including Location Test Certificates where required. Those few sites where these requirements cannot be met will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
To the journalist: please note that health and safety services formerly referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.