Think twice before using your mobile phone at a petrol pump. Static electricity, which gives you a shock when you touch your sweater, from your handset can spark off a major fire if it comes into contact with petroleum fumes that may be released while filling your car or scooter tank.
This is what is suspected to have caused the fire accident on January 5 at the Indian Oil Company (IOC) terminal (where large quantities of fuel is stored) at Hazira in Gujarat. Three workers died in the accident.
The petroleum ministry’s guidelines do not allow cell phones at pumps and fuel terminals.
“Security lapse in frisking personnel at the entry to the licensed area allowed them to enter with mobile phones,” IOC’s interim report said. “It appears that the contractors’ workmen had climbed the tank and may have inadvertently provided the source of ignition.”
The tank, containing 5,000 kilo litres of petrol, was leaking.
“There is always static electricity in mobile phones,” said BK Syngal, former chairman and managing director of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. “It can be the source of spark and can cause fire when it comes into contact with petrol fumes.”