We use petrol in lots of ways in our lives, but it can be very dangerous. Keep safe around petrol.
111 in an emergency
Healthline on 0800 611 116 for medical advice
National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 for poisons advice
Petrol can easily catch fire and explode. It is also poisonous.
Swallowing petrol can make you feel sick, have diarrhoea, and/or vomit. And if you vomit, you can end up breathing in petrol fumes, which can cause even more damage.
Petrol can evaporate quickly and turn into an invisible gas. This gas can easily catch fire and explode. Never smoke near petrol.
It is very dangerous to breathe in petrol fumes. The fumes can hurt your skin and eyes. They can also be absorbed into you body and damage other parts, like your brain, nervous system, lungs, and kidneys. Petrol fumes can make you pass out and, in extreme cases, they can kill you.
Keeping safe around petrol
Help protect yourself, others, and the environment. Be especially careful whenever you are using petrol.
- Keep petrol away from any kind of fire, including things that can spark, such as, electrical equipment like power tools or cell phones. Never smoke or use a lighter or any naked flame near petrol.
- If you have to pour petrol, do so outside, not in a shed or garage. This will make it easier to avoid breathing in petrol fumes.
- If any petrol gets on your clothes, get changed immediately. Leave the dirty clothes outside in the open air (not inside your house or garage) to allow the petrol to evaporate, then wash them separately to other laundry. Keep children and pets away from the clothes until the clothes are clean.
- Clean up any spill straight away. If you use rags to clean up a spill, leave them outside in the open air to allow the petrol to evaporate, then wash them separately to other laundry. Keep children and pets away from the rags until they are clean.
- Never use petrol to start or ‘help’ a fire. Petrol is too dangerous to be used like this. Only ever use a product that is made specifically for this purpose.
- Never use petrol as a cleaner. Use turpentine (turps) or another product that is made specifically for the purpose, such as for cleaning car parts.
- Never pour petrol or liquids contaminated with petrol down the drain. Contact your local council for advice on how to get rid of old petrol safely.
- It is important not to spill petrol. If you are filling a container with petrol, keep the container on a solid surface, like the ground, pour slowly, and keep the pourer in contact with the container at all times.
- Never ever use your mouth to siphon petrol. If you got petrol in your lungs or stomach, you could get very sick – it might even kill you!
- Wear gloves when filling small fuel tanks for things like garden machinery, such as lawnmowers or water blasters. It is easy to spill when you’re filling something small. Gloves will help protect your skin.
Storing petrol safely
- Only store petrol in approved petrol containers. Approved containers have undergone a range of tests to make sure they won’t leak or explode. They are hard for children to open.
- Keep petrol where children cannot get it. The best place is in a high, locked or child-safe cupboard, in a shed that is kept locked.
- Make sure your petrol container has the correct lid and the lid is always tightly fastened.
- Don’t overfill your petrol container – leave a bit of space at the top. If the petrol warms, some of it will change to vapour. The vapour will expand in the container. If the container is too full, it could burst.
- Store petrol in a safe, cool, shaded place – never leave containers in direct sunlight or in the car boot.
- Never store petrol inside your home. Petrol is highly flammable so it’s safer to store it in a shed or garage that is not attached to your house.
- Don’t store large amounts of petrol, only store what you know you will use soon.
- Never smoke near where petrol is stored.
Storing large quantities of petrol
You will need to get a HSNO certificate if you want to store more than 50 litres of petrol at your property. The certificate confirms that you are storing the petrol safely.
A compliance certifier will visit you at your property. They will issue the HSNO certificate once they have confirmed your property meets all the legal requirements for storing more 50 litres of petrol. The certifier will also send a copy of the certificate to us at the EPA for our records.
Providing first aid for petrol accidents
- If someone swallows petrol, call a doctor or call The Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766. Do not induce vomiting.
- If someone gets petrol in their eyes, flush the eyes with clean water for at least 15 minutes and call The Poisons Centre or a doctor.
- If someone gets petrol on their skin, wash the area straight away with clean water. If the skin looks red or is sore, get it checked by a doctor.
- If someone is burned in a petrol fire, immediately run the burn under clean, cold water for at least 20 minutes. Call a doctor or ambulance if the burn is serious. For more information about first aid for burns, see the Burns webpage on the St John website.
Symbols you might see on petrol containers
These symbols indicate that the contents of the container are flammable:
Products with this symbol can cause serious health issues if people are exposed to the product:
These products may:
- cause cancer
- affect fertility
- cause damage to an unborn child
- cause allergies, asthma, or breathing difficulties when inhaled
- cause damage to internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system.
Products with this symbol are toxic to the environment: