Flammable liquids and fire risk

Petrol and other fuels, as well as many common products like solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes, are highly flammable and there's a high risk of fire and/or explosion if there is a source of ignition nearby.

How are workers and others harmed? 

Fire or explosion is the main risk associated with flammable liquids.  

What you can do

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

There are some basic principles for managing petrol safely:

  • No naked lights in the vicinity of flammable liquids.
  • Never smoke within 20 metres of flammable liquids.
  • Use only approved containers for flammable liquids. When transporting containers, be sure they are secured in the vehicle. Fill containers to no more than 95 percent of the container to allow room for thermal expansion. Ensure containers have secure lids.
  • Do not leave containers in direct sunlight or in the boot of a car or a heated storage shed.
  • Never store petrol containers or equipment with petrol tanks near a flame, for example natural gas water heaters or heating systems.
  • When flammable liquids are transferred from a container into a vehicle, follow basic health and safety precautions:
    • decant (pour) in the open air
    • use a pouring spout or funnel
    • if clothing is splashed, change it immediately. 

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information

Hazardous substances | Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)(external link)

Business Fire Safety | New Zealand Fire Service(external link)

Flammable and combustible liquids | CCOHS (Canada)(external link)