Stations will deny services to drivers who do not cooperate

Safety: Drivers entering fuel stations are now greeted with a large signboard cautioning them not to use their mobile phones and to keep their engines switched off while refuelling.

Managers of all the fuel stations in the country have been instructed to strictly follow the rules written on the signboard. According to the notification, if individuals are found violating the safety measures, services could be denied.

Initiated by the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) of the economic affairs ministry, the system is to ensure public safety. With the presence of highly volatile substances like petrol and diesel, fuel stations are high fire risk areas.

OCP’s deputy chief programme officer, Jigme Dorji, said that one of the mandates of the office is to ensure the safety of all consumers. He said that most of the drivers were caught “red-handed” speaking on mobile phones and keeping their engines on while refuelling, during one of their surprise checks.

“We felt the need of a stronger rule to advocate people on the safe practices at a fuel station,” said Jigme Dorji. “It is an internationally accepted rule to keep your phones and engines off while refuelling your vehicle.”

While the noticeboard clearly asks vehicle occupants not to attend calls during refuelling, most of the drivers don’t seem to bother with the notification, said Chencho, manager of Damchen Petroleum Distributers at Olakha.

“Most of the drivers are familiar with the rule and they cooperate with us,” said Chencho. “However, there are those who even upon our request to shut down their engine wont comply.”

Similar incidents are also observed at the fuel station in Lungtenzampa. A fuel attendant said that most of the people do not follow the notification. “When we ask them to put off their engine, they argue with us saying it’s their car they will do whatever they please,” she said.

While it is not the mobile phones that ignite the fire, the static electricity generated from the mobile phone could possibly aid in igniting the vapours coming from the cars fuel tank.

“Of course with the mere use of phones at the station will not catch fire immediately but the likelihood are higher because of the volatile fuels present in the area,” said Jigme Dorji, adding that similar static electricity from the exhaust pipe of the vehicle can also trigger a fire at the station.

Keeping the engine running while refuelling is important to keep a track of the amount of fuel we get, said a driver. “We do not know whether we are getting the exact amount of fuel for what we are paying if the engine is off,” he said.

However, Jigme Dorji, said that to receive the right amount of fuel, customers need to be vigilant about the zero-reading on the fuel dispensing machine. “Most of the drivers do not see the zero-reading on the machine and complain for not getting the full volume of fuel,” he said.

Younten Tshedup