It smacks of a bad joke, but… following the footage of the Irishman filling a plastic bag with fuel on a forecourt going viral it is opportune to review the requirements for portable containers and to discuss them with your staff now.

Real or Fake?

Following the viral video of the Irishman filling a plastic bag with fuel in order to save a few cents per litre before the tax was increased, the internet has been alive with a large number of people calling “fake”. The reason that these netizens are struggling to accept the video as real is that they cannot imagine that people would really try to fill such an inadequate container. For those of us who have been in the industry for some time, we know for a fact that people will do seriously odd things on a forecourt.

Softdrink bottles, paper milk cartons, buckets and yes, plastic bags, have regularly been tried by fuel customers in Australia.

So we are in the Real camp, or at least, the – we have seen worse – camp.

But why is it a safety risk?


Requirements and Risk

The requirements when dispensing fuel into a portable (not attached to the vehicle to power the vehicle) container are clear;

  • That the container be of an approved nature (this is to ensure that it will structurally hold the fuel without melting it and causing a leak)
  • That the container be of an approved size for the fuel
    • no more than 25 L for petrol
    • unlimited for diesel (but there are some conditions, see below)
  • That the container be placed on the ground to fill (or the static be formally managed through an earthing strap or filling spear in the case of filling larger portable containers with diesel where it is not practical to place them on the ground)

Any container that does not meet these requirements is in breach and should not be allowed to be filled.


It falls to the Console Operator to ensure that they are monitoring their forecourt and ensuring that customers are complying with these requirements. The pumps should be shut down if the Console Operator knows or suspects that there is a customer in breach of these requirements.

It is important for cusotmers to comply with these requirements, and for the staff onsite to be vigilant, because;

the dispensing into a portable container creates static, and if the container is not grounded then that static could cause a fire

inappropriate containers pose the risk of spills, vapor injures and environmental contamination

In this case the worst of these risks have not manifested and while we all have a chuckle at the clear stupidity on display, it is important that we also focus on ensuring that it is not allowed to occur at our sites, because the risk of damage to property, environment and person is real and high, and can be managed through appropriate forecourt supervision.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)