A series of major fire incidents in the 1970’s resulted in the prohibition of the use of hold-open clips at service stations across Australia.

While these devices have been reintroduced for some fast-fill diesel operations, they remain prohibited for use with petrol nozzles.

But increasing adoption of VR systems at services stations and advancements in nozzle technology, have resulted in the reintroduction of these devices across America and in a number of European countries.

So why not Australia?

The past concern about the use of hold-open clips was two-fold. First, if the nozzle happened to fall out of the filler tube then fuel would be sprayed onto the forecourt posing significant safety and environmental risks.

The second concern related to the fact that the use of a hold-open clip meant that a person filling their vehicle could activate the clip and then go back and sit inside their car. The act of re-entering the car and then returning to the nozzle, increased the potential for static electricity that could ignite petrol vapours in the vicinity of the filling point.

“This latter problem caused a number of injuries and at least one death in the 1970’s and largely resulted in the use of hold-open clips being banned in our industry”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“Unfortunately, some people have since found ingenious ways to keep petrol nozzles open which include the use of fuel filler caps, key fobs and even tennis balls”, said Mark

“In addition, some retailers are reporting that some of their older customers comment on the difficulty of holding a nozzle open with arthritic hands”, said Mark.

Neither of these issues, however, justify the return of hold-open clips on their own.

But the increasing use of Vapour Recovery systems and the development of new nozzle innovations suggests that it might well be time to revisit the use of hold open latches in Australia.

Stage 2 Vapour Recovery (VR2) nozzles, for example, actually capture petrol vapours during the refuelling process. This means that, where VR2 nozzles are installed, the risk of vapour ignition from static electricity is likely to be very low (in fact, European studies have suggested that vapour capture during refuelling from this technology results in more than 83% capture of vapour during the refuelling process).

The recent development of pressure lock shut-off systems for petrol nozzles also provides a solution to the problems of the past. Designed to conform with UL 2586 (Standard for Hose Nozzle Valves), this innovative technology dramatically reduces the risk of inadvertent fuel spills and the leakage that can occur with traditional nozzle technology.

“In light of the above developments, and the recent move of the USA industry to allow the return of hold-open clips, now is the time to have a discussion about whether we could allow the reintroduction of hold-open clips on Australia’s service station forecourts”, said Mark.

“Given the severity of the past incidents involving the use of hold-open clips, there is a definite need to tread carefully on this issue and ensure that any quest to provide improved levels of customer service don’t compromise public safety”, Mark continued.

ACAPMA has commenced discussions with SafeWork NSW about a framework for a possible trial of hold open clips for nozzles equipped advanced VR2 nozzle technology, with a view to evaluating the performance of these devices in a contemporary forecourt environment.

“There is a way to go yet, but discussions on a possible trial have been initiated and more information will be provided as it comes to hand”, said Mark.

This topic and other issues are likely to be the subject of discussion at the planned contractor workshops to be conducted in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during the week commencing 20 February 2017.

Further information about these workshops can be found at http://acapmag.com.au/home/2017/01/additional-petroleum-industry-contracting-workshop-qld/ and to register email catherines@acapma.com.au.