JGRA wants education campaign on proper use of gas stations

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JGRA wants education campaign on proper use of gas stations

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) President Gregory Chung says the organisation will be asking the energy ministry to assist in a mass media campaign for the proper use of gas stations across the island.

He was speaking with the Jamaica Observer against the background of last Friday's tragedy in Mandeville, Manchester, which saw the Fesco service station there going up in flames, resulting in the death of 59-year-old mechanic Daniel Farquharson and serious injuries to four people.

“The forecourt of gas stations are used for informal taxi stands, meeting places and general loitering, especially in the town centres near where you have congregation and congestion. They use the gas station for many things other than gas station business, and what this does is make it harder for staff and the dealers to monitor the compound for safe practices. They also are very ignorant to the dangers that exist sometimes even customers are unwilling to turn off their engines when they're on the pump, cellphone use, things like smoking on the pump that everyone should know, we still have issues with those,” Chung explained.

He said the campaign will be aimed at having people understand that certain protocols must be observed for the safety of staff and everyone using the pumps.

He noted that the issue of safety would have been high on the agenda of yesterday's JGRA executive meeting, and that the association's membership will be asked to review their safety procedures to ensure they are in order.

Various amateur video footage of Friday's incident showed people in close proximity to petroleum gushing from a pump, as well as motorists going about their usual business at the service station.

One man was seen walking by, carrying a small child. Moments later, pandemonium erupted after the fuel ignited. People could be heard screaming. Twelve vehicles on the premises went up in flames.

Chung cautioned that he was not making any pronouncements on the tragedy at this time, as a full report from the fire brigade is pending .

“So we really await that, but [in] the preliminary videos, we noticed people sitting on their phone and things like that. There are sand containers that carry sand to absorb fuel spills when they occur, and that normally is the first line of containment as well as to call the fire department. There should also be fire extinguishers on the pumps and the pumps also have a shutdown system,” he said.

Chung said individual retailers, along with the fire department, are responsible for training staff on what actions to take in the event of a spill.

He said when these incidents occur, the fuel station is supposed to be sanitised for the protection of all users.

“Gas alone doesn't explode... you could very well have that gas there and if you have enough time it evaporates [so] you need a spark. The normal course [of action] is to sanitise the area and keep pedestrian and vehicular traffic out of the way so as not to create that spark, for the safety of persons,” he said.

In the meantime, he noted that some of the recommendations of the committee set up in 2016 following the “bad gas” saga, to undertake a comprehensive review of the protocols governing the petroleum trade, have made their way into new legislation, which is being created to regulate the industry.

The JGRA had complained that the industry needed overhauling, to ensure standardisation and conformity in operations, both at the marketing and retail levels.

Chung noted that the new Petroleum (Downstream Activities) Act, which will supersede several other pieces of legislation governing the industry, will include safety provisions.


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