Safe Storage and Use of Fuel

General advice

The storing and use of petrol and diesel either at home, the workplace or in a vehicle presents a potential hazard. The guidelines below outline the law on the storage of petrol as well giving some practical tips on reducing risks.

Petroleum and petrol vapour in particular are extremely flammable and must be treated with caution.

Storage of fuel at home or the workplace (unless specifically licensed) is restricted by law to either metal containers with a maximum capacity of 10 litres or approved plastic containers of a maximum 5 litres capacity. These containers should be designed for the purpose and must be fitted with a screw-cap or closure to prevent leakage of liquid or vapour.

Petrol and diesel fuel should be stored in no more than two 10 litre metal containers or two 5 litre plastic containers. They should be clearly labeled as to their contents - accidents have resulted when, for instance, cooking oil drums have been used to store petrol. Petrol filling stations operate under license conditions, which do not allow drivers to dispense fuel into other types of container.

At home, fuel containers must not be stored in living accommodation such as kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms or under staircases. Any storage place should be well away from living areas in case of fire and it should be secure, to protect against the possibility of vandalism or arson.

When fuel is transferred from a container into a vehicle - follow basic health and safety precautions:

  • No smoking and no naked lights in the vicinity;
  • Decant in the open air - not inside the garage;
  • Use a pouring spout or funnel; and
  • If clothing is splashed with fuel, change it immediately.


Petroleum vapour can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and exposure to high concentrations, particularly in confined spaces, can cause dizziness and unconsciousness. Most importantly, do not swallow petrol or diesel or attempt to use the mouth to siphon it, under any circumstances. This can result in it entering the lungs or stomach, which can be fatal.

Petrol should only be used as a motor fuel. Never use it as a cleaning agent or to light fires.

UKPIA's advice is don't hoard large amounts of petrol in your vehicle, home or workplace - it's dangerous and it could be against the law. People who have a genuine need to store large quantities of petrol need to obtain a license or notify the appropriate authority.

See also the briefing paper Petrol and Health

Filling up
Take care when filling your vehicle's fuel tank or appropriate approved container.Spillages or leaks pose a number of hazards, so do not overfill your tank and make sure that the filler cap is securely in place and not leaking. Fuel  expands and vapour can build up in hot weather, so avoid filling to the brim. Equally, approved containers should not be overfilled and should be securely fastened during transit to prevent them falling over and leaking.

Spillages on the road surface, particularly of diesel, create slippery conditions that are a major hazard to other road users especially those on two wheels.

To read about the KillSpills road safety campaign click here.


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Further Information

Further advice and information is given on via the local Petroleum Licensing Authority.