Thursday 9 April, 2020

Employee shares fuel leakage protocol for typical petrol station

While investigations continue into Friday afternoon's scary fire at Fesco service station in Mandeville, Manchester, to determine the cause of the massive blaze, an experienced service station employee from far away on the north coast has indicated that persons employed to service stations are generally trained to deal with fuel leakages.

The assertion came amid scores of criticisms from social media users that from video footages that have gone viral, the employees at the Mandeville-based gas station did not follow anywhere near textbook protocol in dealing with the gas leakage there before the explosion and subsequent fire.

One of the videos highlighted the proverbial calm before the storm, captured the circumstances before the fire, with persons in the vicinity of where the recording was being done seemingly amazed at the initial happenings amid the gas leakage the explosions and fire came suddenly.

In the two-minute video, a person is seen attending to the free-flowing fuel at one of the pumps. Other persons, including a man seated between the pumps using his cell phone, are seemingly unperturbed by the fuel leakage. Vehicles can also be seen in normal operation within the station, all before the first loud explosion, followed by signs of fire and loud screams all around.

With one death among those injured in the blaze up to Sunday morning, at least three others are reported to be still hospitalised with severe burns, while others have been treated for less significant injuries.

The estimated cost of the material damages is still being tabulated, but over 10 cars were damaged in the blaze which began sometime after 5pm at the service station located at the intersection of Manchester and Caledonia roads in Mandeville.

The typical Joe and Jane on social media sites, including Twitter, some even without training in the handling of fuel leakage, had much by way of criticism for the service station employees who were in the vicinity of the pumps just before the fire, for having seemingly not follow procedures which they claimed must have been in place for dealing with leakages of flammable substances.

"Not a single soul in this video knew the proper do's & don'ts of gas leaks. Not the gas station workers. Not the motorists. Not even the person recording the video. "The gas (jus) a waste" No sah. Dis sad bad, bad....." tweeted one social media user.

"Don’t look like any training was done at all. I don’t even see any sign of sand (having been put) on the pool of gas," said another.

One Twitter user, however, indicated that the protocols to be adhered to in such situations would almost certainly have been in place, but may have simply not been followed at the time. 

"Protocol probably exists, but when the employees on site don't report to the store manager and they themselves don't close off the site, it is a big problem. Well, employees have no work on Monday morning. Not throwing mud, but carelessness allowed for it to get to that stage," the tweet read.

File photo of fuel service at the pumps.

Another individual agreed with that opinion, and tweeted, "Sad part is there are a few protocols that could have avoided this disaster. Emergency lock off when the pump was first hit for one, then sand. They should have also stopped selling gas (entirely); the more you pump, the more it (the fuel) flows…"

But a St Mary worker at a service station in the parish nosedived into the situation from the vantage point of the viral video showing the happenings at the pump, and laid the blame squarely at the feet of the employees who were in the vicinity of the defective pumps in the face of what were described as typical operational safety procedures for service stations.

In agreeing that proper protocols seemed not to have been followed in the circumstances, the individual cited actions that would likely have prevented the Mandeville tragedy.

The woman, who asked for her identity to be withheld, insisted that persons are provided with training to prepare them for situations where a gas spillage occurs, or leakages from the pump.

"Basically, if you have some gas spillage on the ground, we have a sandbox prepared with sand. Normally we throw it in the area (where the gas is)," she indicated.

"Where there is a spillage from the pump itself, the first alarm is to get your supervisor to turn off the pumps. There is a switch to turn off the pumps running the gas through the nozzle, and there is a switch to turn off the product separately. So you can turn off the 90 pounds differently, or the 87, or the diesel different(ly).

"So the first thing you would have done is to get the supervisor to turn off that. If not, we are fully knowledgeable of where we have a button that shuts down the entire gas station. It is known to everybody, so even if your supervisor does not know about the situation, the persons who are there know exactly (where the button is)… So you can squeeze it and everything goes down," the woman further informed.

From the viral video of the circumstances prior to the explosion at the services station in Mandeville, the St Mary woman said she was of the opinion that the employees did not follow proper procedures.

"I don't think they would have followed proper procedures. Not to judge, but (from) the little clippings I saw, I think there were too many negligent acts there. I don't think anybody was paying the situation much of a mind..." she said.

"First of all in a case like that, I wouldn't stand up outside so comfortably. Everyone was there so comfortable and I don't know why, because the gas was actually running. I don't know what happened, but all I know is that I saw the gas running. I don't know if the pumps were off at the moment or what, but I know I saw the gas running, so I'm assuming that the pump was still on," the woman stated.

She said she believed that something eventually ignited the fire.

 She also stated that the as a preventive measure, the entire area should have been cordoned off, and persons evacuated.

"Don't know actually what caused it (the fire at the gas station), but I don't think it would just blow up like that. Something must have caused it, but the gas is there, so that is what it needs to spread. So I don't know if someone would have urged their supervisor to turn off the pumps... The area should have been cordoned off once you see the gas; (you) do that same time," she indicated.

Up to time of publication, there has been no official word on the cause of the fire at the service station.

Central Manchester Member of Parliament (MP), Peter Bunting.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Manchester, Peter Bunting, in reacting via a video, said there would be a need to examine safety procedures in relation to the handling of flammable substances, such as fuel.

He expressed gratitude to first responders for their brave actions that prevented further damage and injuries.

One of the principals of the affected gas station, Claudine Heaven, also expressed her commendation on Tweeter to members of the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) for their "amazing job in containing the blaze".

Through a series of tweets on Saturday, she said the management of the service station will be awaiting the results of investigations, and expressed her gratitude to those who expressed their support.

"The events of last evening have been difficult for us to comprehend. We are grateful to God that all lives were spared (up to then), and continue to pray that the… persons injured will be restored to full health. All our staff (members) are accounted for.

"We wish to acknowledge the quick response of the #JamaicaFireBrigade and the amazing job they did in containing the blaze. Their professionalism and hard work ensured that no damage was done to the main structure or surrounding buildings," Heaven tweeted.

She further disclosed through her tweets that, "The team from the @JamaicaConstab were on top of things, and worked hard to secure the area, which saw to the safety of all. We are truly grateful. The medical staff at #MandevilleRegionalHospital were superb.

"At this time we await the result of the investigations. The focus continues to be the wellbeing of our staff and customers who have supported our business for over 33 years.

"We thank all those who called, sent messages, prayed, visited and helped in any way. God is still in full control," the businesswoman tweeted.

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