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Petroleum Licensing

Petrol is a highly flammable liquid and gives off flammable vapour even at very low temperatures. When this vapour is mixed with air in proportions between 1% and 8% a risk of fire or explosion exists. Petrol vapour is heavier than air and does not disperse easily in still conditions. It tends to sink to the lowest possible level of its surroundings and may accumulate in tanks, cavities, drains, pits or other depressions.

Flammable atmospheres may also exist where clothing or other absorbent material or substances are contaminated with petrol. Petrol vapour can have acute or chronic effects if inhaled and therefore should be considered in the assessment required under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH).


The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) require employers to control the risks to safety from fire and explosions.

Current Petroleum Legislation:

  • Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928
  • Petroleum Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc) Regs 1929
  • Petroleum (Mixtures) Order 1929
  • Petroleum (Transfer of Licences) Act 1936
  • Petroleum (Liquid Methane) Order 1957
  • Public Health Act 1961 (Section 73 only)
  • Petroleum Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regs 1982
  • Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regs 1996 (Reg 20 only) and
  • Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regs 2002 (DSEAR)

Use the quick links below for further information:

What is DSEAR?

DSEAR stands for the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

Dangerous substances can put peoples' safety at risk from fire and explosion. DSEAR puts duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people from risks to their safety from fires, explosions and similar events in the workplace, this includes members of the public who may be put at risk by work activity.

What are dangerous substances?

Dangerous substances are any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations and dusts from foodstuffs.

What does DSEAR require?

Employers must:

  • Find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the fire and explosion risks are
  • Put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
  • Put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
  • Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
  • Make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
  • Identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

The petroleum licensing authority is Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, who are responsible for ensuring safety at sites where petrol is delivered, stored and dispensed.

The keeping of petrol must be in accordance with conditions attached to a licence issued under the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928. When an Inspector appointed by the licensing authority visits a petrol filling station the aim is to ensure the observance, maintenance and, where necessary, the improvement of safety standards.

Other safety-related legislation is enforced by the local councils or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), dependent on the main activity at the premises concerned.

At the time of writing there are proposals being considered for changes to petrol legislation. These may affect licensing and health and safety enforcement responsibilities. Contact your enforcing authority for the current position.

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The petroleum licensing authority contact addresses are:

St. Austell Community Fire Station
Carlyon Road
St. Austell
PL25 4LD

Falmouth Community Fire Station
Trescobeas Road
TR11 2LQ

Payment for new or renewal licence applications to be made by cheque payable to CornwallCouncil.

The costs for licensing are as follows:

Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1928 c.32

Licence to Keep Petroleum Spirit of a quantity:

Not exceeding 2,500 litres

  • 1 year = £42
  • 2 years = £84
  • 3 years = £126

Exceeding 2,500 litres but not exceeding 50,000 litres 

  • 1 year = £58
  • 2 years = £116
  • 3 years = £174

Exceeding 50,000 litres

  • 1 year = £120
  • 2 years = £240
  • 3 years = £360

Transfer of petroleum spirit licence - £8.

You can apply online or download the Petroleum Licence Application here:

If you require a form to be sent to you, please use the contact details at the bottom of this page.

Safety aspects of petroleum delivery, storage and dispensing are the responsibility of the licensing authority. Council Officers work to, and are able to give advice on, nationally produced guidance such as:

HS(G) 146 - Dispensing petrol. Assessing and controlling the risk of fire and explosion at sites where petrol is stored and dispensed as a fuel.

In addition to the general duties established under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (s.2, 3, 4, 7 and 8) the following legislation may also be of relevance in premises visited by local authority health and safety inspectors:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (risk assessment, appointment of competent persons etc)
  • COSHH 1999 (assessment and control of risks arising from substances hazardous to health)
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)(iv) Electricity at Work Regulations 1989(v) Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

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Aspiration is the entry of liquid into the lungs following swallowing and subsequent vomiting. Petrol is classified as 'Harmful by ingestion' owing to this aspiration hazard i.e. the risk of chemical pneumonitis, and not because of its acute toxicity i.e. poisoning, properties. Petrol is also classified as a skin irritant, due to its potential to cause dermatitis. The presence of up to 5% benzene means that petrol is classified as Carcinogenic, Category 2 (See element on 'Carcinogens' in this manual for further guidance).

Under COSHH 1999 a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is required for all jobs carried out involving petrol. This may involve emergency procedures (spillages or accidental ingestion), protective clothing to prevent skin contact and precautions to control exposure by inhalation.

Where petrol might be used (eg. mobile equipment, generators) or workers exposed to other petrol fire/explosion risks (eg. garage workshops) an assessment needs to be carried out on the risks involved to ensure that adequate control measures are taken. Leaflets giving advice on petrol safety are available, covering safe storage, carriage and use.

When draining petrol tanks, appropriate advice includes:

  • Choose a level, well-ventilated area, preferably out of doors
  • Never drain petrol over a pit
  • Keep all sources of ignition well away
  • Use a proper fuel retriever or syphon
  • If draining into a container, use a funnel
  • Do not attempt hot work on petrol tanks

  • Have you carried out a COSHH assessment regarding exposure to petrol?
  • As a premises storing/dispensing petrol as a fuel do you comply with the licence issued by your Petroleum Licensing authority?
  • For other premises where petrol is used or handled, have you carried out a risk assessment for the activities concerned?
  • Have you implemented appropriate measures to control the fire/explosion risks identified in your risk assessment?
  • Have you informed or instructed employees of the health and safety risks associated with petrol and appropriate precautions that should be taken?

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Must conform to the Carriage of Dangerous goods by Road Regulations 1996 (Regulation 20) and current Approved Code of Practice.

You can view the code of practice for Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road from http://www.legislation.gov.uk.

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Business Fire Safety

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service
St Austell Community Fire Station
Carlyon Road
St Austell
PL25 4LD

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