It appears not too many people are taking notice of the dangers associated with refuelling petrol engines!

WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert highlighting the increased risk of fires during refuelling of petrol-powered equipment.

The alert was issued following an incident in which a worker received burns to their body while refuelling a petrol-powered high-pressure washer.

The incident occurred while the petrol-powered pressure washer was still hot from use, and the investigation found a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Refuelling while the high-pressure washer engine was still hot from use.
  • The design of the pressure washer where the fuel tank was located directly over the top of the pressure washer engine.
  • The pressure washer engine is fuelled by petrol, which is a flammable liquid.
  • Vapours and fuel spills are easily ignited.
  • The pressure washer was mounted on the tray of a tray back vehicle, requiring workers to stand on top of the vehicle tray for refuelling tasks.

Depending on the positioning of the equipment, the working space may be limited; this may also have affected safe access / egress to the pressure washer.

While this incident involved a pressure washer it could well have been an outboard motor, hookah unit, lifting equipment or any other petrol-powered equipment.


The consequences if a petrol fuelled fire occurs onboard a vessel can be catastrophic resulting in serious injury and loss of the vessel.

At all times ensure you undertake safe refuelling practices.

Refer to AS1940:2017 The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Shorlink’s recommendations to keep you safe when refuelling petrol-powered engines include:

  • Undertake a risk assessment to ensure control measures are in place to eliminate ignition hazards when refuelling.
  • Ensure workers are aware of fire risks during refuelling petrol-powered equipment and understand the control measures implemented to prevent the risk of fire.
  • Consider the use of funnels to reduce the risk of spillage.
  • Ensure all equipment is switched off allowing the engine to cool down prior refuelling.
  • Refuel away from heat and possible ignition sources; including hot parts, vapours or flames.
  • Refuel in well-ventilated areas.
  • Ensure appropriate fire extinguishers are readily accessible; dry powder extinguishers are suitable for petrol fires.
  • Consider the positioning of equipment for safe access when setting up vehicles.
  • Ensure workers refuelling equipment are trained and competent to perform the task.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety boots, non-flammable long pants and long sleeve shirts, eye or face protection, and gloves.


Here’s a few tips to consider when using petrol-powered equipment:

  • Use a funnel to reduce the risk of fuel spillage.
  • Consider the use of a removable/portable fuel tank; but
  • Always consult with the manufacturer if you are considering redesigning the setup of the equipment.
  • Refuel using appropriate fuel containers.