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Remember When Safety and Service Were Important?


Remember the days when you drove your car into a “service station” and you simply expected that, in addition to gas, you would receive, well, service?

When I was a boy, I would often go to the gas station with my Dad. Back then, it was not just about gasoline. The gas would be pumped for him; his windows would be washed; and all the necessaries under the hood would be carefully examined for problems; he might even get some service work done. My Dad knew the gas station attendant by name and would “shoot the breeze” with him about everything from baseball to politics. Ah, the good ole days: when men were men and service station attendants were professionals.

Well as they say, yes, times they have changed.

Now, when you go to get gasoline there are no professionals. No one meets you at the pump and you, the consumer, have become the gas station attendant in some respects. Now, the “station attendant” is likely the poor guy or gal putting up the signs for the 29 cent hot dog, while keeping the slushy and coffee machines filled to the brim! They are the people selling lottery tickets and paying off the winners. Station attendants now are more a combination grocer, coffee shop person and numbers runner than they are anyone the least bit skilled in the very sensitive trade of dealing with flammable and explosive liquids.

I guess when it comes to one of the most dangerous flammable and combustible liquid/gas mixture in our society Big Oil and Big Business want to add a degree of difficulty to keep it exciting. Thanks, but no thanks….

Seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about or actually witnessed gasoline overflowing out the gas tank of an unattended car or on to an unsuspecting consumer.

Most often, the emergency of over flowing flammable liquids is the result of broken automatic cut off valve. This is both a serious occurrence and one that requires some amount of professional knowledge. Sadly, we can not, in all fairness, expect the grocer, coffee person, numbers runner to really have the expertise to properly identify the malfunction as a serious occurrence and have the specialized knowledge to know how to fix it. Certainly, shutting down a malfunctioning pump is not a call that a clerk in a gas station is going to want to make.

Here in Florida we have the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to inspect the gas pumps, pursuant to Florida Statute Chapter 531 – Weights and Measures. Their primary job, however, is to make sure that the amount pumped out is the proper amount received and charged.

However, I must wonder; between that division and the local fire departments is there really effective oversight on the safety aspects of these modern convenience store-gas station combos.

I think it is fair to say that the incidence of reporting of overflows, spills, and injuries is loosely regulated at best. Frankly, based on my research it is pretty much a self monitoring reporting system for the wrongdoer.

Yeah, I know, not likely to be all that effective. For additional legislative comfort, we have Florida Statute 526.141; which sets forth that the attendant at a self service station is to be “primarily” monitoring the pumps.

Do we really believe that is actually happening? What is happening is that in between the grocery sales, cigarette sales, numbers running and coffee peddling, the issue of flammable liquids and their inherent danger may be getting some fleeting thoughts. It appears the “attendants” or more like cashiers and stock persons; woefully undertrained, understaffed, and overworked. I have no doubt they are underpaid considering the seriousness of that for which they are “alleged” to be responsible.

Sorry, call me cynical but I have seen firsthand the fires and injuries.

Ok, so what to do?

Well you can look for the stains on the ground of old fuel spills, but that doesn’t really tell you how old or new they are.

Next, even though the store may be luring you in with signs of 2 for 1 burritos, don’t bite; at least until after you finished pumping the gas. Leaving the car unattended can make a bad situation worse.

Finally, if you notice an overflow problem, report it! Report it to the store and get the name of the person and a copy of the report but also notify the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the local Fire Dept. The links contained in this article and will help you see prior complaints but will also let you file a complaint “for the record”.

This extra effort will help keep people safe, save people money, and help the environment. Not a bad return on a modest effort. I am in favor of business, progress and technology, but not when it comes at the unnecessary expense of tragic injuries, loss of life and the safety of our families.

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