I don’t know of any other retail business that has to deal with the number of rules and regulations as the fuel industry. Not only do we have an expansive set of compliance areas to adhere to, but the regulations constantly change. However, we are not here to complain because this is the business landscape we find ourselves in. What we need to focus on is both understanding the compliance regulations and putting systems into place to ensure we are all over it.
Fuel retailers not only find it difficult to fully understand compliance areas of their business, but have trouble keeping up to date with constant changes as well.
Compliance checks can come from a variety of sources, including government departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fair Work, Safe Work Australia, National Measurement Institute and local councils. Representatives from these organisations sometimes provide notice they will be conducting a compliance check but also, in many instances, they turn up unannounced.
In the past three to five years we have seen a focus on employment conditions and wages. Many fuel retailers have been fined for not complying with award wages, in many cases because they didn’t understand the award. In the last two years, we have seen the regulators focus their attention on staff training with many of our members receiving audits into staff training compliance.
The Australian government wants employees to be fully trained in all the areas of work relating to petrol stations. Auditors want to see proof employees have been trained and that the employer is keeping proper records. This is fair enough, too. A petrol station is a dangerous place to work and the last thing anyone wants to see is someone getting injured, or worse.
ServoPro’s online training platform, ServoSkills, has identified the key areas of staff training required by government departments. These include armed robbery safety, fire safety, food safety, respect in the workplace, LPG safety, selling tobacco and general safety. These are some of the main areas of staff training you should be considering.
Environmental compliance is another very important area for petrol station operators to understand. There have been some major changes in recent times with environmental compliance. For example, the NSW EPA recently delegated environmental compliance to local councils who have been very proactive in making contact with petrol station operators to communicate their requirements.
Safety areas in petrol stations can easily be forgotten about or missed. For example, is your first aid kit fully stocked and up to date? Are high-vis vests available? Is there an intrinsically safe torch for use on the forecourt available? Are protective gloves and other PPE available for handling dangerous goods such as LPG?
Are you compliant in the legal and licensing areas of running a petrol station? Do you have the correct signage required for selling tobacco products? Is your license for preparing and selling food valid? Is your dangerous goods license up to date and accessible?
Many petrol stations are not just selling pre-packaged food, but also preparing and selling food products on site. If this is the case, it is imperative that you comply with a range of regulations. Does your staff know the correct temperatures for storing hot and cold food? Is a fire blanket available near fryers, stoves and ovens? Are cleaning and sanatising chemicals accessible and clearly labeled? Don’t wait for an audit, in which case you may be shut down for not complying!
Are you regularly checking compliance areas in your shop? Areas that I often see forgotten are electrical cables undamaged, tested and tagged. Do cigarette cabinets comply with legislation? Are storage areas for oils and chemicals on shelving below food and beverage products? There should be no risk of chemicals leaking onto food products.
LPG decanting and cylinder exchange is another area where there are a lot of legal requirements that can be missed. Are your decanting cylinders located the correct distances from building entry ways, drains, footpaths, fuel dispensers or ignition sources? Does your LPG cylinder exchange cage comply with regulations?
The petrol station forecourt has the most areas of compliance. Do you have the correct warning signs displayed at the dispensers? Are dispenser hoses regularly checked for cracks and leaks? Are fuel tanks and dispensers clearly labeled so customers, staff and other visitors to the site can easily see the type of fuel they are working with? Are tank vent pipes the correct distance away from buildings and ignition sources?
If we were to list all the areas of compliance in a petrol station we would probably fill this entire magazine.
The key to getting and staying compliant is to identify all the areas of compliance and then regularly check them. Have systems and procedures in place so compliance areas are not forgotten about. You can create your own monthly manual site audits by creating paper checklists. You could also pay for an external source to come in and check your compliance. The easiest way to check you are compliant is to use an online platform such as the Site Audit App, which is provided to all ServoPro members. It is an easy, comprehensive and cost effective way to check your ongoing compliance.
Whichever method you choose, it is important that you have evidence that audits have been done through written documentation and images. Government auditors will undertake their own site inspections as well as assessing whether regular compliance checks have been completed by the petrol station operator.
You have a legal responsibility to understand the various laws, rules and regulations that govern running a petrol station. Taking steps to ensure your petrol station is compliant will give you peace of mind that you are not only doing the right thing but also that you won’t get any nasty surprises from a government auditor.
By being fully compliant you have the ability to let customers know in your advertising and marketing that you are a responsible fuel retailer and that staff and customer safety is important to you.
What actions should you take if you find you are not compliant in a certain area? The answer is simple, ask for help.
At ServoPro we have identified the three main areas of compliance that fuel retailers struggle with. These are human resources, workplace health and safety and legal requirements. ServoPro members have access to a Help Desk for each of these areas where they can speak with an expert in each particular field. We also provide help and advice on all other areas of compliance, including food safety, environmental and more.
Take compliance seriously. With some robust systems and procedures in place compliance doesn’t need to be a complicated and confusing area of running a petrol station. Remember, if you need help, reach out and ask.
This article was written by Dan Armes, Founder of ServoPro, for the Oct/Nov issue of C&I Retailing magazine.