Petrol Safety on Boats

The Health & Safety Executive describes petrol as a dangerous substance; it is a highly flammable liquid and can give off vapour which can easily be set on fire and when not handled safely has the potential to cause a serious fire and/or explosion. | And fires are not the only issue; portable petrol engine exhaust fumes have fatally poisoned several boaters in recent years. | Because of the risks, on boats, anyone using petrol has to have a discipline and routine because of the very nature of a vessel floating on the water.

All boaters using petrol, and especially anyone new to boating, should appreciate the nature of petrol vapour especially in the context of the bucket-like quality of a boat cabin and hull.

The fundamentals are that petrol, when spilt or exposed to open air, can vaporise quickly and the vapour can be ignited easily by any spark, flame, cigarette, etc.

Even a small spill of petrol will create a large amount of vapour. Likewise when it is being poured and when a tank is being filled, the vapour in the ‘empty’ tank is displaced by the new liquid fuel.

Escaping vapour will sink to the lowest level of its surroundings, accumulating at low level in places such as cabin floors, lockers, bilges and other ‘still-air’ spaces.portable boat fire

Even if the concentration of vapour is too rich to ignite immediately, it will dilute creating the potential for a serious fire and/or an explosion, even though, given enough ventilation, it may dissipate to a safe level eventually.

You can download our list of ten crucial petrol safety tips that will help keep you and your crew safe here. read_action_90x90

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Spare petrol and its stowage.

If you can avoid carrying spare fuel on your boat, the best and safest option is not to have any extra petrol aboard, but if spare fuel is a necessity, then there's some key points to be followed to help keep you safe. More details here

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Some further points for boaters to consider

Reducing the risks of fire and explosion from petrol can take a multi-layered approach. We have some further points boaters can consider

More details here

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Boats with inboard petrol engines

Understanding the difference between the modern road vehicle experience, i.e. never lifting the bonnet; just climbing in, simply turning the key and setting off - and the very different experience for boats is crucial for enjoying petrol-engined boats safely. More details here


Journey preparation and setting off

Many petrol incidents happen just before the boat sets off or shortly after it leaves the mooring. Taking this advice could keep you safe.

More details here

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Refuelling specifically

Give petrol due respect every time the boat is fuelled, and it will remain safe, but inattention and sloppy handling of petrol can put people and property at risk.

More deatils here

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Petrol outboards and portable engines

Small in size and portable by nature, it is too easy to forget that portable engines can still cause death and serious injury if basic precautions are not taken.

More details here

 See more fire safety advice here