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Road Transport

Monday, 04 April 2011 14:42

Truck and Bus Driving

Transport by road includes the movement of people, livestock and freight of all kinds. Freight and livestock generally move in some form of truck, although buses often carry packages and passenger baggage and may transport fowl and small animals. People generally move by bus on the road, although in many areas trucks of various kinds serve this function.

Truck (lorry) drivers may operate several different types of vehicles, including, for example, semi-trailers, tanker trucks, dump trucks, double and triple trailer combinations, mobile cranes, delivery trucks and panel or pickup vehicles. Legal gross vehicle weights (which vary by jurisdiction) range from 2,000 kg to over 80,000 kg. Truck cargo may include any imaginable item—for example, small and large packages, machinery, rock and sand, steel, lumber, flammable liquids, compressed gases, explosives, radioactive materials, corrosive or reactive chemicals, cryogenic liquids, food products, frozen foods, bulk grain, sheep and cattle.

In addition to driving the vehicle, truck drivers are responsible for inspecting the vehicle prior to use, checking shipping papers, verifying that proper placards and markings are in place and maintaining a log book. Drivers may also be responsible for servicing and repairing the vehicle, loading and unloading cargo (either by hand or using a fork truck, crane or other equipment) and collecting money received for goods delivered. In the event of an accident, the driver is responsible for securing the cargo and summoning assistance. If the incident involves hazardous materials, the driver may attempt, even without proper training or necessary equipment, to control spills, stop leaks or put out a fire.

Bus drivers may carry a few people in a small van or operate medium and large buses carrying 100 or more passengers. They are responsible for boarding and discharging passengers safely, providing information and possibly collecting fares and maintaining order. Bus drivers may also be responsible for servicing and repairing the bus and loading and unloading cargo and baggage.

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most serious hazards facing both truck and bus drivers. This hazard is aggravated if the vehicle is not properly maintained, especially if the tyres are worn or the brake system is faulty. Driver fatigue caused by a long or irregular schedules, or by other stress, increases the likelihood of accidents. Excessive speed and hauling excessive weight add to the risk, as do heavy traffic and adverse weather conditions which impair traction or visibility. An accident involving hazardous materials may cause additional injury (toxic exposure, burns and so on) to the driver or passengers and may affect a wide area surrounding the accident.

Drivers face a variety of ergonomic hazards. The most obvious are back and other injuries caused by lifting excessive weight or using improper lifting technique. The use of back belts is quite common, although their efficacy has been questioned, and their use may create a false sense of security. The necessity of loading and unloading cargo at locations where fork-lift trucks, cranes or even dollies are not available and the great variety of package weights and configurations add to the risk of lifting injuries.

Driver’s seats are often poorly designed and cannot be adjusted to provide proper support and long-term comfort, resulting in back problems or other musculoskeletal damage. Drivers may experience damage to the shoulder caused by vibration as the arm may rest for long periods in a somewhat raised position on the window opening. Whole-body vibration can cause damage to the kidneys and back. Ergonomic injury may also result from repetitive use of poorly placed vehicle controls or fare box keypads.

Drivers are at risk of industrial hearing loss caused by long-term exposure to loud engine noises. Poor maintenance, faulty mufflers and inadequate cab insulation aggravate this hazard. Hearing loss may be more pronounced in the ear adjacent to the driver’s window.

Drivers, especially long-haul truck drivers, often work excessive hours without adequate rest. The International Labour Organization (ILO) Hours of Work and Rest Periods (Road Transport) Convention, 1979 (No. 153), requires a break after 4 hours of driving, limits total driving time to 9 hours per day and 48 hours per week and requires at least 10 hours of rest in each 24-hour period. Most nations also have laws which govern driving times and rest periods and require drivers to maintain logbooks indicating hours worked and rest periods taken. However, management expectations and economic necessity, as well as certain terms of remuneration, such as pay per load or the lack of pay for an empty return trip, put strong pressure on the driver to operate for excessive hours and to make bogus log entries. Long hours cause psychological stress, aggravate ergonomic problems, contribute to accidents (including accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel) and may cause the driver to use artificial, addictive stimulants.

In addition to ergonomic conditions, long work hours, noise and economic anxiety, drivers experience psychological and physiological stress and fatigue caused by adverse traffic conditions, poor road surfaces, bad weather, night driving, the fear of assault and robbery, concern about faulty equipment and continuous intense concentration.

Truck drivers are potentially exposed to any chemical, radioactive or biological hazard associated with their load. Leaking containers, faulty valves on tanks and emissions during loading or unloading may cause worker exposures to toxic chemicals. Improper packaging, inadequate shielding or improper placement of radioactive cargo may allow radiation exposure. Workers transporting livestock may be infected with animal-borne infections such as brucellosis. Bus drivers are exposed to infectious diseases of their passengers. Drivers are also exposed to fuel vapours and engine exhaust, especially if there are fuel-line or exhaust system leaks or if the driver makes repairs or handles freight while the engine is running.

In the event of an accident involving hazardous materials, the driver may experience acute chemical or radiation exposures or may be injured by a fire, explosion or chemical reaction. Drivers generally lack the training or equipment to deal with hazardous materials incidents. Their responsibility should be limited to protecting themselves and summoning emergency responders. The driver faces additional risks in attempting emergency response actions for which he or she is not properly trained and adequately equipped.

The driver may be injured in the course of making mechanical repairs to the vehicle. A driver could be struck by another vehicle while working on a truck or bus alongside the road. Wheels with split rims pose a special injury hazard. Improvised or inadequate jacks may cause a crushing injury.

Truck drivers face the risk of assault and robbery, especially if the vehicle carries a valuable cargo or if the driver is responsible for collecting money for goods delivered. Bus drivers are at risk of fare box robberies and abuse or assault by impatient or inebriated passengers.

Many aspects of a driver’s life may contribute to poor health. Because they work long hours and need to eat on the road, drivers often suffer from poor nutrition. Stress and peer pressure may lead to drug and alcohol use. Using the services of prostitutes increases the risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The drivers appear to be one of the main vectors for carrying AIDS in some countries.

The risks described above are all preventable, or at least controllable. As with most safety and health issues, what is needed is a combination of adequate remuneration, worker training, a strong union contract and strict adherence to applicable standards on the part of management. If drivers receive adequate pay for their work, based on proper work schedules, there is less incentive to speed, work excessive hours, drive unsafe vehicles, carry overweight loads, take drugs or make bogus log entries. Management must require drivers to comply with all safety laws, including keeping an honest logbook.

If management invests in well-made vehicles and assures their regular inspection, maintenance and servicing, breakdowns and accidents can be greatly reduced. Ergonomic injury can be reduced if management is willing to pay for the well-designed cabs, fully adjustable driver’s seats and good vehicle control arrangements that are now available. Proper maintenance, especially of exhaust systems, will reduce noise exposure.

Toxic exposures can be reduced if management assures compliance with packaging, labelling, loading and placarding standards for hazardous materials. Measures which reduce vehicular accidents also reduce the risk of a hazardous materials incident.

Drivers must be given time to thoroughly inspect the vehicle prior to use and must not face any penalty or disincentive for refusing to operate a vehicle that is not functioning properly. Drivers must also receive adequate driver training, vehicle inspection training, hazard recognition training and first-responder training.

If drivers are responsible for loading and unloading, they must receive training in proper lifting technique and be provided with hand-trucks, fork-lifts, cranes or other equipment necessary to handle goods without excessive strain. If drivers are expected to make repairs to vehicles, they must be provided with the correct tools and proper training. Adequate security measures must be taken to protect drivers who transport valuables or handle passenger fares or money received for goods delivered. Bus drivers should have proper supplies for dealing with body fluids from sick or injured passengers.

Drivers must receive medical services both to assure their fitness for work and to maintain their health. Medical surveillance must be provided for drivers who handle hazardous materials or are involved in an incident with exposure to blood-borne pathogens or hazardous materials . Both management and drivers must comply with standards governing the evaluation of medical fitness.



Monday, 04 April 2011 14:47

Ergonomics of Bus Driving

Bus driving is characterized by psychological and physical stresses. Most severe are the stresses of traffic in big cities, because of the heavy traffic and frequent stops. In most transit companies, the drivers must, in addition to driving responsibilities, handle tasks such as selling tickets, observing passenger loading and unloading and providing information to passengers.

Psychological stresses result from the responsibility for the safe transport of passengers, scant opportunity to communicate with colleagues and the time pressure of holding to a fixed schedule. Rotating shift work is also psychologically and physically stressful. Ergonomic shortcomings in the driver’s workstation increase physical stresses.

Numerous studies of the activity of bus drivers have shown that the individual stresses are not great enough to cause an immediate health hazard. But the sum of the stresses and the resulting strain leads to bus drivers having more frequent health problems than other workers. Especially significant are diseases of the stomach and digestive tract, of the motor system (especially the spine) and of the cardiovascular system. This results in drivers often not reaching retirement age, but rather having to quit driving early for health reasons (Beiler and Tränkle 1993; Giesser-Weigt and Schmidt 1989; Haas, Petry and Schühlein 1989; Meifort, Reiners and Schuh 1983; Reimann 1981).

In order to achieve more effective occupational safety in the field of commercial driving, technical as well as organizational measures are necessary. An important work practice is the arranging of shift schedules so that the stress on the drivers is minimized and their personal desires are also taken into account to the extent possible. Informing the personnel of and motivating them to health-conscious conduct (e.g., proper diet, adequate movement within and outside of the workstation) can play an important role in promoting health. An especially necessary technical measure is the ergonomically optimal design of the driver’s workstation. In the past, the requirements of the driver’s workstation were considered only after other requirements, such as design of the passenger area. Ergonomic design of the driver’s workstation is a necessary component of driver safety and health protection. In recent years, research projects on, among other things, the ergonomically optimal driver’s workstation were conducted in Canada, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands (Canadian Urban Transit Association 1992; Peters et al. 1992; Wallentowitz et al. 1996; Streekvervoer Nederland 1991). The results of the interdisciplinary project in Germany resulted in a new, standardized driver’s workstation (Verband Deutscher Verkehrsunternehmen 1996).

The driver’s workstation in buses is normally designed in the form of a half-open cabin. The measurements of the driver’s cabin and the adjustments that can be made to the seat and steering wheel must fall within a range that is applicable to all drivers. For central Europe, this means a body-size range of 1.58 to 2.00 m. Special proportions, such as being overweight and having long or short limbs, should also be taken into account in the design.

The adjustability and the ways of adjusting the driver’s seat and steering wheel should be coordinated so that all drivers within the design range can find positions for their arms and legs that are comfortable and ergonomically healthy. For this purpose, the optimal seat placement has a back incline about 20°, which is further from the vertical than has previously been the norm in commercial vehicles. Furthermore, the instrument panel should also be adjustable for optimal access to adjustment levers and for good visibility of the instruments. This can be coordinated with the steering wheel adjustment. Using a smaller steering wheel also improves spatial relations. The steering wheel diameter now in general use apparently comes from a time when power steering was not common in buses. See figure 1.

Figure 1. Ergonomically optimized and unified driver's workstation for busses in Germany.


Courtesy of Erobus GmbH, Mannheim, Germany

The instrument panel with the controls can be adjusted in coordination with the steering wheel.

Since stumbling and falling are the most common causes of workplace accidents among drivers, particular attention should be paid to the design of the entrance to the driver’s workstation. Anything that can be stumbled on should be avoided. Steps in the entrance area must be of equal height and have adequate step depth.

The driver’s seat should have a total of five adjustments: seat length and height settings, seat back angle, seat bottom angle and seat depth. Adjustable lumbar support is strongly advised. To the extent that it is not already legally required, equipping the driver’s seat with a three-point seat-belt and head rest are recommended. Since experience shows that manually adjusting to the ergonomically right position is time-consuming, in the future some way of electronically storing the adjustment functions listed in table 1 should be used, allowing for quickly and easily refinding the individual seating adjustment (e.g., by entering it onto an electronic card).

Table 1. Bus driver seat measurements and seat adjustment ranges.


adjustment range

Standard value

Adjustment range


Entire seat


≥ 200




≥ 100


Seat surface

Seat surface depth




Seat surface width (total)

Min. 495


Seat surface width (flat part, in pelvic area)



Side upholstering in pelvic area (crosswise)



Depth of seat recess



Seat surface slope

0–10° (rising toward front)



Seatback height


Min. height



Max. height



Seatback width (total)*

Min. 475


Seatback width (flat part)


—lumbar area (lower)



—shoulder area (upper)



Side upholstering* (side depth)


—lumbar area (lower)



—shoulder area (upper)



Seatback slope (to vertical)




Height of headrest upper edge above seat surface

Min. 840


Height of headrest itself

Min. 120


Width of headrest

Min. 250

Lumbar pad

Forward arch of lumbar support from lumbar surface



Height of lumbar support lower edge over seat surface


– Not applicable

* The width of the lower part of the backrest should correspond approximately to the width of the seat surface and grow narrower as it goes up.

** The side upholstering of the seat surface applies only to the recess area.

Stress through whole-body vibrations in the driver’s workstation is low in modern buses compared to other commercial vehicles, and it falls well below the international standards. Experience shows that driver’s seats in buses are often not optimally adjusted to the vehicle’s actual vibration. An optimal adaptation is advised to avoid certain frequency ranges causing an increase in whole-body vibration on the driver, which can interfere with productivity.

Noise levels that are a hazard to hearing are not anticipated in the bus driver’s workstation. High-frequency noise can be irritating and should be eliminated because it could interfere with the drivers’ concentration.

All adjustment and service components in the driver’s workstation should be arranged for comfortable access. A large number of adjustment components are often required due to the amount of equipment added to the vehicle. For this reason, switches should be grouped and consolidated according to use. Frequently used service components such as door openers, bus stop brakes and windshield wipers should be placed in the main access area. Less frequently used switches can be located outside the main access area (e.g., on a side console).

Analyses of visual movements have shown that driving the vehicle in traffic and observing the loading and unloading of passengers at the stops is a serious burden on the driver’s attention. Thus, the information conveyed by instruments and indicator lights in the vehicle should be limited to those absolutely necessary. Vehicle computerized electronics offer the possibility of eliminating numerous instruments and indicator lights, and instead installing a liquid crystal display (LCD) in a central location to convey information, as shown in the instrument panel in figure 2 and figure 3.

Figure 2. View of an instrument panel.


Courtesy of Erobus GmbH, Mannheim, Germany

With the exception of the speedometer and a few legally required indicator lights, the functions of the instrument and indicator displays have been assumed by a central LCD display.

Figure 3. Illustration of an instrument panel with legend.


With the proper computer software, the display will show only a selection of information that is needed for the particular situation. In the case of malfunction, a description of the problem and brief instructions in clear text, rather than in difficult-to- understand pictograms, can provide the driver with important assistance. A hierarchy of malfunction notifications can also be established (e.g., “advisory” for less significant malfunctions, “alarm” when the vehicle must be stopped immediately).

Heating systems in buses often heat the interior with warm air only. For real comfort, however, a higher proportion of radiant heat is desirable (e.g., by heating the side walls, whose surface temperature often lies significantly below the interior air temperature). This, for example, can be achieved by circulating warm air through perforated wall surfaces, which thereby will also have the right temperature. Large window surfaces are used in the driver’s area in buses to improve visibility and also for appearance. These can lead to a significant warming of the inside by sun rays. The use of air conditioning is thus advisable.

The air quality of the driver’s cabin depends heavily on the quality of the outside air. Depending on the traffic, high concentrations of harmful substances, such as carbon monoxide and diesel motor emissions, can briefly occur. Providing fresh air from less-used areas, such as the roof instead of the vehicle front, lessens the problem significantly. Fine-particle filters should also be used.

In most transit companies, an important part of the driving personnel’s activity consists of selling tickets, operating devices to provide information to passengers and communicating with the company. Until now, separate devices, located in the available work space and often hard for the driver to reach, have been used for these activities. An integrated design should be sought from the start that arranges the devices in an ergonomically convenient manner in the driver’s area, especially the input keys and display panels.

Finally, the assessment of the driver’s area by the drivers, whose personal interests should be taken into account, is of great importance. Supposedly minor details, such as placement of the driver’s bag or storage lockers for personal effects, are important for driver satisfaction.



Petroleum-based fuels and lubricants are sold directly to consumers at full-service and self-service (with or without repair bays) service stations, car washes, automotive service centres, motor vehicle agencies, truck stops, repair garages, automotive parts stores and convenience stores. Service station attendants, mechanics and other employees who fuel, lubricate and service motor vehicles should be aware of the physical and chemical hazards of the petroleum fuels, lubricants, additives and waste products they come into contact with and follow appropriate safe work procedures and personal protection measures. The same physical and chemical hazards and exposures are present at commercial facilities, such as those operated by motor truck fleets, automobile rental agencies and bus companies for fuelling and servicing their own vehicles.

Because they are the facilities where motor fuels are delivered direct to the user’s vehicle, service stations, particularly those where drivers fuel their own vehicles, are where employees and the general public are most likely to come into direct contact with hazardous petroleum products. Other than those drivers who change their own oil and lubricate their own vehicles, the likelihood of contact with lubricants or used oil by motorists, except for incidental contact when checking fluid levels, is very small.

Service Station Operations

Fuel island area and dispensing system

Employees should be aware of the potential fire, safety and health hazards of gasoline, kerosene, diesel and other fuels dispensed at service stations. They should also be aware of suitable precautions. These include: safe dispensing of fuels into vehicles and containers, clean-up and disposal of spills, fighting incipient fires and draining fuels safely. Service stations should provide fuel-dispenser pumps which operate only when the fuel-hose nozzles are removed from the dispensers’ brackets and the switches are manually or automatically activated. Fuel-dispensing devices should be mounted on islands or protected against collision damage by barriers or curbs. Dispensing equipment, hoses and nozzles should be inspected regularly for leaks, damage and malfunctions. Safety features may be installed on fuel dispensers such as emergency breakaway devices on hoses, which retain liquid on each side of the break point, and impact valves with fusible links at the base of dispensers, which close automatically in event of severe impact or fire.

Government regulations and company policies may require that signs be posted in dispensing areas similar to the following signs, which are required in the United States:

  • “No Smoking—Shut off engine”
  • “WARNING: It is unlawful and dangerous to dispense gasoline into unapproved containers”
  • “Federal Law prohibits the introduction of any gasoline containing lead or phosphorus into any motor vehicle labelled UNLEADED GASOLINE ONLY”
  • “UNLEADED GASOLINE”, posted at unleaded gasoline dispensers and “CONTAINS LEAD ANTIKNOCK COMPOUNDS”, posted at leaded gasoline dispensers.


Fuelling vehicles

Service station employees should know where the fuel dispenser pump emergency shut-off switches are located and how to activate them, and should be aware of potential hazards and procedures for safely dispensing fuel into vehicles, such as the following:

  • Vehicle engines should be shut off and smoking prohibited while fuelling to reduce the hazards of accidental vehicle movement, spills and fuel vapour ignition.
  • When fuel is dispensed, the nozzle should be inserted into the vehicle’s fill pipe and contact between the nozzle and the fill pipe maintained to provide for an electric bond until the delivery has been completed. Nozzles should not be blocked open with fuel caps or other objects. Where allowed, approved latches should be used to hold open automatic nozzles.
  • Vehicles such as cement mixers and recreation vehicles with auxiliary internal combustion engines should not be fuelled until both the vehicle’s engines and auxiliary engines are shut off. Care should be taken when fuelling recreational or other vehicles equipped with gas-fired stoves, refrigerators and water heaters to ensure that fuel vapours are not ignited by pilot lights. Employees should not fuel trucks while standing on the side rail, truck bed or fuel tank.
  • Fuel tanks on motorcycles, motor bicycles, fork-lift trucks and similar vehicles should not be filled while the engine is running or when anyone is seated on the vehicle. The tanks should be filled at a slow rate to prevent fuel spills that could run onto hot engines and start fires.
  • After fuelling, hose nozzles should be promptly replaced on the dispensers, pumps turned off and caps replaced on fill pipes or containers.


Filling portable fuel containers

Service stations should establish procedures such as the following for safely dispensing fuel into portable containers:

  • Where required by government regulation or company policies, fuel should be dispensed only into approved, properly identified and labelled portable containers, with or without dispensing spouts, nozzles or hoses and equipped with vents and screw tops or self-closing gravity, spring action or combination fusible link covers designed to provide pressure relief.
  • Containers should be placed on the ground and filled slowly to avoid splash filling and overfills and to provide for grounding (earthing). Containers should not be filled while in a vehicle or in the bed of a truck, particularly one with a plastic liner, as proper grounding cannot be achieved. Bonding wires and clamps should be provided and used, or contact should be maintained between dispenser nozzles and containers to provide a bond while filling, and between container spouts or funnels and tanks during refuelling from containers.
  • When pouring fuel from containers which do not have built-in spouts, funnels should be used to minimize spillage and avoid splash filling.
  • Portable containers which contain fuel or vapours should be properly stored in approved storage cabinets or rooms away from sources of heat and ignition.


Storage tanks, fill pipes, fill caps and vents

Service station underground and aboveground storage-tank gauge and fill-caps should be kept closed except when filling and gauging to minimize release of fuel vapours. When tank-gauge openings are located inside buildings, spring-loaded check valves or similar devices should be provided to protect each of the openings against fluid overflow and possible vapour release. Storage-tank vents should be located in accordance with government regulations and company policy. Where venting to open air is permitted, vent-pipe openings from both underground and aboveground storage tanks should be located at a high level so that flammable vapours are directed away from potential sources of ignition and will not enter windows or air intakes or doors or become trapped under eaves or overhangs.

Improper mixing of different products during deliveries may be caused by lack of identification or improper colour coding or markings on storage tanks. Storage-tank covers, fill pipes, caps and fill-box rims or pads should be properly identified as to products and grades so as to reduce the potential of a delivery into the wrong tank. Identification symbols and colour coding should conform to government regulations, company policies or industry standards, such as the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Recommended Practice 1637, Using the API Color Symbol System to Mark Equipment and Vehicles for Product Identification at Service Stations and Distribution Terminals. A chart indicating the symbols or colour codes in use should be available at the service station during deliveries.

Delivery of fuel to service stations

Service stations should establish and implement procedures such as the following, for the safe delivery of fuel into aboveground and underground service station storage tanks:

Prior to delivery

  • Vehicles and other objects should be moved from the area where the delivery tank truck and delivery hoses will be located.
  • Delivery tank trucks should be positioned away from traffic areas, and vehicles should be restricted from driving near the unloading area or over hoses by the use of traffic cones or barriers.
  • Receiving storage tanks should be gauged prior to delivery to determine if there is sufficient capacity, and checked to see if any water is in the tank.
  • Drivers should assure that fuel is delivered into the correct tanks, that gauge caps are replaced before starting delivery and that all tank openings not being used for delivery are covered.
  • Where required by company policies or government regulation, the tank truck vapour recovery system should be connected to the receiving storage tank prior to starting delivery.


During delivery

  • Drivers should monitor the area near the receiving tank’s vents for potential ignition sources and check that the vents operate properly during delivery.
  • Drivers should remain where they can observe the delivery and be able to stop delivery or take other appropriate action in event of an emergency, such as ejection of liquid from vents or if an overfill device or tank vent alarm activates.


After delivery

  • Storage tanks may be gauged after delivery to verify that specific tanks have received the correct products and the proper amount of products as indicated on the delivery ticket or record. Samples may be taken from the tanks after delivery for quality-control purposes.
  • After delivery, spill containment devices should be drained if necessary and the correct fill and gauge caps and storage tank covers replaced on the proper tanks.


Other Service Station Functions

Storage of flammable and combustible liquids

Government regulations and company policies may control the storage, handling and dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids and automotive chemicals such as paints, starter fluids, antifreeze, battery acids, window washer fluids, solvents and lubricants in service stations. Service stations should store aerosols and flammable liquids in closed containers in approved, well-ventilated areas, away from sources of heat or ignition, in appropriate flammable liquid rooms, lockers or cabinets, or in separate, outside buildings.

Electrical safety and lighting

Service station employees should be familiar with electrical safety fundamentals applicable to service stations, such as the following:

  • Lighting and electrical installations, equipment and fixtures of the proper electrical classification should be provided and maintained in accordance with codes and regulations and should not be replaced by equipment of lesser classification.
  • Electric tools, water coolers, ice machines, refrigerators and similar electrical equipment should be properly grounded (earthed). Portable lights should be protected against breakage to minimize the chance that a spark might ignite flammable vapours in case bulbs break.


Adequate illumination should be provided at appropriate locations in service stations to reduce the potential for accidents and injuries. Government regulations, company policies or voluntary standards may be used to determine appropriate illumination levels. See table 1.

Table 1. Illumination levels for service station areas.

Service station area

Suggested foot candles

Active traffic areas


Storage areas and stockrooms


Washrooms and waiting areas


Dispenser islands, work benches and cashier areas


Service, repair, lubrication and washing areas




Source: ANSI 1967.



Service stations should establish and implement lockout/tagout procedures to prevent the release of potentially hazardous energy while performing maintenance, repair and service work on electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic powered tools, equipment, machinery and systems such as lifts, hoists and jacks, lubrication equipment, fuel-dispenser pumps and compressors. Safe work procedures to prevent the accidental start-up of vehicle engines during servicing or repair should include disconnecting the battery or removing the key from the ignition.

Service station fluids

Fluid and coolant levels

Before working under a hood (bonnet), employees should assure that it will stay open by testing the tension or using a rod or brace. Employees should exercise caution when checking vehicle engine fluids to avoid burns from exhaust manifolds and to prevent contact between dipsticks and electrical terminals or wires; care is also necessary when checking transmission fluid levels (since the engine must be running). Employees should follow safe work procedures when opening radiators, such as allowing pressurized radiators to cool and covering radiator caps with a heavy cloth when opening, using PPE and standing with face turned away from radiators so as to not inhale any escaping steam or vapours.

Antifreeze and window washer fluids

Employees servicing vehicles should be aware of the hazards of both glycol and alcohol antifreezes and window washer fluid concentrates and how to safely handle them. This includes precautions such as storing alcohol-based products in tightly closed drums or packaged containers, in separate rooms or lockers, away from all heating equipment, and providing containment to prevent contamination of drains and ground in the event of a spill or leak of glycol-type antifreeze. Antifreeze or washer fluid should be dispensed from upright drums by using tightly connected hand pumps equipped with drip returns, rather than by using faucets or valves on horizontal drums, which may leak or be knocked open or broken off, causing spills. Air pressure should not be used to pump antifreeze or washer fluid concentrates from drums. Empty portable antifreeze and washer fluid concentrate containers should be completely drained prior to disposal, and applicable regulations governing the disposal of glycol antifreeze solutions should be followed.


Service stations should ensure that employees are aware of the characteristics and uses of the different fuels, oils, lubricants, greases, automotive fluids and chemicals available in the facility and their correct selection and application. The proper tools should be used to remove crankcase, transmission and differential drains, test plugs and oil filters so as to not damage vehicles or equipment. Pipe wrenches, extenders and chisels should be used only by employees who know how to safely remove frozen or rusted plugs. Because of the potential hazards involved, high-pressure lubricating equipment should not be started until the nozzles are set firmly against grease fittings. If testing is to be done prior to use, the nozzle should be aimed into an empty drum or similar receptacle, and not into a hand-held rag or cloth.

Lift operations

Employees working in and around vehicle service areas should be aware of unsafe conditions and follow safe work practices such as not standing in front of vehicles while they are being driven into service bays, over lubrification pits or onto lifts, or when vehicles are being lifted.

  • Vehicles should be properly aligned on two-rail, free-wheel or frame-contact lifts, since an off-centre position may cause a vehicle to fall.
  • Lifts should not be raised until occupants have left the vehicles and a check of overhead clearance has been made.
  • Once the vehicle is in position, the emergency stop device should be set so the lift will not fall in the event of a pressure drop. If a lift is in a position where the emergency stop device cannot be engaged, blocks or safety stands should be placed under the lift or vehicle.
  • A hydraulic lift may be equipped with a low-oil control valve, which prevents operation if the oil in the supply tank falls below a minimum level, since the lift can drop accidentally under those conditions.


When wheel-bearing lubrication, brake repair, tyre changing or other services are performed on free-wheel or frame-contact lifts, vehicles should be raised slightly above the floor to allow employees to work from a squatting position, to reduce the possibility of back strain. After vehicles are raised, the wheels should be blocked to prevent rolling, and safety stands should be placed underneath for support in case of jack or lift failure. When removing wheels from vehicles on drive-on lifts, the vehicles should be blocked securely to prevent rolling. If jacks or stands are used to lift and support vehicles, they should be of the proper capacity, placed at appropriate lift points on the vehicles and checked for stability.

Servicing tyres

Employees should be aware of how to safely check pressures and inflate tyres; tyres should be inspected for excessive wear, maximum tyre pressures should not be exceeded, and the worker should stand or kneel to the side and turn the face when inflating tyres. Employees should be aware of hazards and follow safe work practices when servicing wheels with multi-piece and single-piece rims and lock-ring-rim wheels on trucks and trailers. When repairing tyres with flammable or toxic patching compounds or liquids, precautions such as controlling ignition sources, using PPE and providing adequate ventilation, should be observed.

Parts cleaning

Service station employees should be aware of the fire and health hazards of using gasoline or low-flashpoint solvents to clean parts and should follow safe practices such as using approved solvents with a flashpoint above 60ºC. Parts washers should have a protective cover that is kept closed when the washer is not in use; when the washer is open, there should be a hold-open device such as fusible links, which allows the cover to close automatically in case of fire.

Employees should take precautions so that gasoline or other flammable liquids do not contaminate the cleaning solvent and lower its flashpoint to create a fire hazard. Contaminated cleaning solvent should be removed and placed in approved containers for proper disposal or recycling. Employees who clean parts and equipment using cleaning solvents should avoid skin and eye contact and use appropriate PPE. Solvents should not be used for hand-washing and other personal hygiene.

Compressed air

Safe work practices should be established by service stations for the operation of air compressors and the use of compressed air. The air hoses should be used only for inflating tyres and for lubrication, maintenance and auxiliary services. Employees should be aware of the hazards of pressurizing fuel tanks, air horns, water tanks and other non-air pressure containers. Compressed air should not be used for cleaning or to blow residue from vehicle brake systems, since many brake linings, especially on older model vehicles, contain asbestos. Safer methods such as cleaning with vacuums or liquid solutions should be used.

Storage battery service and handling

Service stations should establish procedures to ensure that storage, handling and disposal of batteries and battery electrolyte fluids follow government regulations and company policies. Employees should be aware of the hazards of electrical short circuits when charging, removing, installing or handling batteries; disconnect the ground (negative) cable first before removing batteries; and reconnect the ground (negative) cable last when installing batteries. When removing and replacing batteries, a carrier may be used to facilitate lifting and to avoid touching the battery.

Employees should be aware of safe practices such as the following for handling battery solution:

  • Containers of electrolyte solution should be stored at temperature ranges between 16 and
    32ºC in safe areas where they cannot overturn. Any electrolyte solution spilled on the batteries or in the filling area should be flushed with water. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) may be used on spills, since it is an effective neutralizer for battery electrolyte solution.
  • New batteries should be placed on the floor or work table when being filled with electrolyte solution, and the caps should be replaced prior to installation. New batteries should not be filled when they are inside vehicles.
  • Face shields and chemical goggles, aprons and gloves may be used to minimize exposure to battery solution. Battery solution should be handled and dispensed where a supply of potable water or eye wash fluid is available, in case the battery solution spills or contacts an employee’s skin or eyes. Do not use neutralizing solutions on skin or eyes.
  • When servicing batteries, corrosive particles which accumulate around the terminals should be brushed away, washed with clean water, neutralized with baking soda or other similar agents and prevented from contacting eyes or clothing.


Employees should check fluid levels in batteries prior to charging and periodically check them during charging to determine whether batteries are overheating. Chargers should be turned off before disconnecting cables from batteries, to avoid creating sparks which may ignite hydrogen gas generated during the charge. When “quick charging” batteries are installed in vehicles, the vehicles should be moved away from the fuel-dispensing islands, and the battery ground (negative) cables should be disconnected before connecting the charger units. If the batteries are located within passenger compartments or under vehicle floorboards, they should be removed before charging.

Employees should be familiar with the hazards and safe procedures to “jump start” vehicles that have dead batteries, in order to avoid electrical system damage or injury from exploding batteries if the jumper cables are hooked up incorrectly. Employees should never jump start or charge frozen batteries.

Driving vehicles and towing

Employees should be trained, qualified and have proper motor vehicle operator’s licences to drive customer or company vehicles, service trucks or towing equipment either on or off the premises. All vehicles should be operated in compliance with government regulations and company policies. Operators should check the vehicle’s brakes immediately, and vehicles with faulty brakes should not be driven. Employees operating tow trucks should be familiar with safe operating procedures, such as operating the hoist, checking the transmission and frame of the vehicle to be towed and not exceeding the tow truck’s maximum lifting capacity.

Confined spaces in service stations

Service station employees should be aware of the hazards associated with entry into confined spaces such as aboveground and underground tanks, sumps, pump pits, waste containment tanks, septic tanks and environmental collection wells. Unauthorized entry should not be allowed, and confined-space entry permit procedures should be established that apply to both employee and contractor entrants.

Emergency procedures

Service stations should develop emergency procedures, and employees should know how to sound the alarms, how to notify authorities of emergencies when and how to evacuate and what appropriate response actions should be taken (such as shutting off emergency switches in the event of spills or fires in the dispensing pump areas). Service stations may establish security programmes to familiarize employees with robbery and violence prevention, depending on the service station’s location, hours of operation and potential threats.

Service Station Health and Safety

Fire protection

Gasoline vapours are heavier than air and may travel long distances to reach sources of ignition when released during fuel filling, spills, overflows or repairs. Proper ventilation should be provided in enclosed areas to allow for dissipation of gasoline vapours. Fires may occur from spills and overflows when fuelling or servicing vehicles or delivering product into service station tanks, particularly if smoking is not restricted or if vehicle engines remain running during fuelling. To avoid fires, vehicles should be pushed away from spill areas or the spilled gasoline should be cleaned from under or around vehicles before starting their engines. Vehicles should not be permitted to enter or drive through spills.

Employees should be aware of other causes of fires in service stations, such as improper handling, transfer and storage of flammable and combustible liquids, accidental releases during fuel system repairs, electrostatic discharge when changing filters on gasoline dispensers and the use of improper or unprotected work lights. Draining gasoline from vehicle fuel tanks could be very hazardous due to the potential for release of fuel and vapours, especially in enclosed service areas when sources of ignition may be present.

Hot-work permits should be issued when work other than vehicle repair and servicing is performed which introduces sources of ignition in areas where flammable vapours may be present. Employees should be aware that carburettor priming should not be attempted while vehicle engines are running or being turned over with their starters, since flashbacks could ignite the fuel vapours. Employees should follow safe procedures, such as using starter fluid and not gasoline for priming carburettors and using clamps to hold the chokes open while attempting to start the engine.

Although government regulations or company policies may require the installation of fixed fire-protection systems, fire extinguishers are usually the primary means of fire protection in service stations. Service stations should provide fire extinguishers of the proper classification for the expected hazards. Fire extinguishers and fixed fire protection systems should be regularly inspected, maintained and serviced, and employees should know when, where and how to use the fire extinguishers and how to activate the fixed systems.

Service stations should install fuel-dispenser emergency shut-down controls at clearly identified and accessible locations and ensure that employees know the purpose, location and operation of these controls. To prevent spontaneous combustion, oily rags should be kept in covered metal containers until they are recycled or discarded.


Employee injuries at service stations may result from improper use of tools, equipment and ladders; not wearing PPE; falling or tripping; working in awkward positions; and lifting or carrying cases of materials incorrectly. Injuries and accidents may also occur from not following safe practices when working on hot radiators, transmissions, engines and exhaust systems, servicing tyres and batteries, and working with lifts, jacks, electrical equipment and machinery; from robbery and assault; and from improper use of or exposure to automotive cleaners, solvents and chemicals.

Service stations should develop and implement programmes to prevent accidents and incidents which can be attributed to problems associated with service station physical conditions, such as poor maintenance, storage and housekeeping practices. Other factors contributing toward accidents in service stations include employees’ lack of attention, training or skills, which may result in the improper use of equipment, tools, automotive parts, supplies and maintenance materials. Figure 1 provides a safety checklist.

Figure 1. Service station safety and health checklist.


Robberies are a major safety hazard in service stations. Appropriate precautions and training are discussed in the accompanying box and elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.


Employees should be aware of health hazards associated with working in service stations, such as the following:

Carbon monoxide. Internal combustion engine exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, a highly toxic, odourless and colourless gas. Employees should be aware of the dangers of exposure to carbon monoxide, particularly when vehicles are inside service bays, garages or car washes with their engines running. Vehicle exhaust gases should be piped outside through flexible hoses, and ventilation should be provided to assure an adequate supply of fresh air. Fuel oil appliances and heaters should be checked to assure that carbon monoxide is not vented to inside areas.

Toxicity of petroleum fuels. Employees who come in contact with gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil or kerosene should be aware of the potential hazards of exposure and know how to handle these fuels safely. Inhaling sufficient concentrations of petroleum fuel vapours for extended periods of time may result in mild intoxication, anaesthesia or more serious conditions. Short exposure to high concentrations will cause dizziness, headaches and nausea, and irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Gasoline, solvents or fuel oils should never be siphoned from containers or tanks by mouth, since the toxicity of low viscosity liquid hydrocarbons aspired directly into the lungs is 200 times greater than if they are ingested. Aspiration into the lungs may cause pneumonia with extensive pulmonary oedema and haemorrhage, leading to serious injury or death. Vomiting should not be induced. Immediate medical assistance should be sought.

Benzene. Service station employees should be aware of the potential hazards of benzene, which is found in gasoline, and avoid inhaling gasoline vapours. Although gasoline contains benzene, low-level exposure to gasoline vapours is unlikely to cause cancer. Numerous scientific studies have shown that service station employees are not exposed to excessive levels of benzene during the course of their normal work activities; however, there is always the possibility that overexposure could occur.

Dermatitis hazards. Employees who handle and come into contact with petroleum products as part of their jobs should be aware of the hazards of dermatitis and other skin disorders and the personal hygiene and personal protective measures needed to control exposure. If eye contact with gasoline, lubricants or antifreeze occurs, the eyes should be flushed with clean, lukewarm potable water, and medical assistance should be provided.

Lubricants, used motor oil and automotive chemicals. Employees who change oil and other motor vehicle fluids, including antifreeze, should be aware of the hazards and know how to minimize exposure to products such as gasoline in used motor oil, glycol in antifreeze and other contaminants in transmission fluids and gear lubricants by the use of PPE and good hygiene practices. If high-pressure lubricating guns are discharged against an employee’s body, the affected area should be examined immediately to see if petroleum products have penetrated the skin. These injuries cause little pain or bleeding, but involve almost instant separation of the skin tissues and possible deeper damage, which should receive immediate medical attention. The attending physician should be informed of the cause and the product involved in the injury.

Welding. Welding, besides being a fire hazard, can involve exposure to lead pigments from welding on car exteriors, as well as metal fumes and welding gases. Local exhaust ventilation or respiratory protection is needed.

Spray painting and auto body fillers. Spray painting can involve exposure to solvent vapours and pigment particulates (e.g., lead chromate). Auto body fillers often are epoxy or polyester resins and can involve skin and respiratory hazards. Drive-in spray booths for spray painting, local exhaust ventilation and skin and eye protection are recommended while using auto body fillers.

Storage batteries. Batteries contain corrosive electrolyte solutions of sulphuric acid that can cause burns and other injuries to the eyes or skin. Exposure to battery solution should be minimized by the use of PPE, including rubber gloves and eye protection. Employees should immediately flush electrolyte solution from the eyes or skin with clean potable water or eye wash fluid for at least 15 minutes and seek immediate medical attention. Employees should thoroughly wash their hands after servicing batteries and keep their hands away from the face and eyes. Employees should be aware that overcharging batteries can create explosive and toxic quantities of hydrogen gas. Because of the potential harmful effects of exposure to lead, used storage batteries should be properly disposed of or recycled in accordance with government regulations or company policies.

Asbestos. Employees who check and service brakes should be aware of the hazards of asbestos, know how to recognize whether brake shoes contain asbestos and take appropriate protective measures to reduce exposure and contain waste for proper disposal (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Portable enclosure for preventing exposure to asbestos dust from brake drums It is equipped with an enclosed compressed-air gun with a cotton sleeve and is connected to a HEPA vacuum cleaner.


Courtesy of Nilfisk of America, Inc.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Injuries to employees may occur from contact with automotive fuels, solvents and chemicals or from chemical burns caused by exposure to battery acids or caustic solutions. Service station employees should be familiar with the need to use and wear PPE such as the following:

  • Work shoes with oil- and slip-resistant soles should be worn for general work in service stations, and approved protective-toe safety shoes with oil/slip-resistant soles should be worn where there is a danger of foot injuries due to rolling or falling objects or equipment.
  • Safety goggles and respiratory protection should be used for protection against exposures to chemicals, dust or steam, such as when painting or working around batteries and radiators. Industrial safety glasses or face shields with goggles should be worn when the potential exists for exposure to impact materials, such as working with grinders or wire buffers, repairing or mounting tyres, or replacing exhaust systems. Welding glasses should be worn when cutting or welding to prevent flash burns and injuries from particles.
  • Impervious gloves, aprons, footwear, face shields and chemical goggles should be worn when handling automotive chemicals and solvents, battery acid and caustic solutions and when cleaning up chemical or fuel spills. Leather work gloves should be worn when handling sharp objects such as broken glass, motor vehicle parts or tyre rims and while emptying trash cans.
  • Head protection may be needed when working beneath vehicles in pits or changing overhead signage or lights and in other areas where a potential exists for injury to the head.
  • Employees working on vehicles should not wear rings, wristwatches, bracelets or long chains, since the jewellery may contact the vehicle’s moving parts or electrical system and cause injury.


To prevent fires, dermatitis or chemical burns to the skin, clothing that is soaked with gasoline, antifreeze or oil should be immediately removed in an area or room with good ventilation and where no sources of ignition, such as electric heaters, engines, cigarettes, lighters or electric hand dryers, are present. The affected areas of the skin should then be thoroughly washed with soap and warm water to remove all traces of contamination. Clothing should be air dried outside or in well-ventilated areas away from sources of ignition before laundering to minimize contamination of wastewater systems.

Service Station Environmental Issues

Storage tank inventory control

Service stations should maintain and reconcile accurate inventory records on all gasoline and fuel oil storage tanks on a regular basis to control losses. Manual stick gauging may be used to provide a check of the integrity of underground storage tanks and connecting pipes. Where automatic gauging or leak detection equipment is installed, its accuracy should be verified regularly by manual stick gauging. Any storage tank or system suspected of leaking should be investigated, and if leakage is detected, the tank should be made safe or emptied and repaired, removed or replaced. Service station employees should be aware that leaking gasoline can travel long distances underground, contaminate water supplies, enter sewer and drainage systems and cause fires and explosions.

Handling and disposal of waste materials

Waste lubricants and automotive chemicals, used motor oil and solvents, spilled gasoline and fuel oil and glycol-type antifreeze solutions should be drained into approved, properly labelled tanks or containers and stored until disposed of or recycled in accordance with government regulations and company policies.

Because engines with worn cylinders or other defects may allow small amounts of gasoline to enter their crankcases, precautions are needed to prevent vapours which could be released from tanks and containers with crankcase drainings from reaching sources of ignition.

Used oil filters and transmission fluid filters should be drained of oil prior to disposal. Used fuel filters which have been removed from vehicles or fuel dispenser pumps should be drained into approved containers and stored in well-ventilated locations away from sources of ignition until dry before disposal.

Used battery-electrolyte containers should be thoroughly rinsed with water before discarding or recycling. Used batteries contain lead and should be properly disposed of or recycled.

Cleaning large spills may require special training and PPE. Recovered spilled fuel may be returned to the terminal or bulk plant or otherwise disposed of according to government regulations or company policy. Lubricants, used oil, grease, antifreeze, spilled fuel and other materials should not be swept, washed or flushed into floor drains, sinks, toilets, sewers, sumps or other drains or the street. Accumulated grease and oil should be removed from floor drains and sumps to prevent these materials from flowing into sewers. Asbestos dust and used asbestos brake linings should be handled and disposed of according to government regulations and company policies. Employees should be aware of the environmental impact and potential health, safety and fire hazards of these wastes.



Monday, 04 April 2011 15:09

Violence in Gasoline Stations

Gasoline station workers rank fourth among US occupations with the highest rates of occupational homicides, with almost all occurring during attempted armed robberies or other crimes (NIOSH 1993b). The recent trend to replace repair shops with convenience stores has made them even more of a target. Study of the circumstances involved has led to the delineation of the following risk factors for such criminal violence:

  • exchange of money with the public
  • working alone or in small numbers
  • working late night or early morning hours
  • working in high-crime areas
  • guarding valuable property or possessions
  • working in community settings.


An additional risk factor is being in locations that are readily accessible and particularly suited to quick getaways.

To defend themselves against attempted robberies, some gasoline station workers have provided themselves with baseball bats or other cudgels and even acquired firearms. Most police authorities oppose such measures, arguing that they are likely to provoke violent reactions on the part of the criminals. The following preventive measures are suggested as more effective deterrents of robbery attempts:

  • bright lighting of the gasoline pump and parking areas and of the interiors of stores and cashier’s areas
  • large, unobstructed, bullet-resistant windows to enhance the visibility of the interior of the store and enclosures of bullet-resistant glass for the cashier
  • separate outside entrances to any public rest rooms so that persons using them do not have to enter the store. (A separate, indoor, employee-only rest room would provide privacy for employees and obviate the need for them to go outside to use the public restroom.)
  • provision of drop-boxes and time-release safes to hold all but a very limited amount of cash, as well as highly visible signs indicating their use
  • establishing a policy of not making change for cash purchases during night and early morning hours
  • hiring an additional worker or a security guard so that the worker is never alone (operators of gasoline stations and convenience stores object to the additional cost)
  • installing an electrical or electronic alarm system (triggered by easily accessed “panic” buttons) that will provide audible and visual distress signals to attract police or other assistance—this can be combined with an alarm wired directly to a local police station
  • installing high-fidelity television monitors to assist in identifying and, ultimately, apprehending the perpetrator(s).


Consultation with local police authorities and crime-prevention experts will assist in the selection of the most appropriate and cost-effective deterrents. It must be remembered that the equipment should be properly installed and periodically tested and maintained, and that the workers must be trained in its use.



" DISCLAIMER: The ILO does not take responsibility for content presented on this web portal that is presented in any language other than English, which is the language used for the initial production and peer-review of original content. Certain statistics have not been updated since the production of the 4th edition of the Encyclopaedia (1998)."


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