gas stations across Japan are exploding with problems
don't know just how dangerous self-service gas stations
can be. We want
to enlighten people on how self-service stations can be
-- Japanese service station operator
February 27, 2003
Self-service gasoline stations have sparked
a boom in Japan. But for some unfortunate drivers that
choose to pump their own gas it has created an alarming
by-product. It's a boom that is caused by static electricity!
Government officials are urging self-service
station users to be careful when filling their tanks as
static electricity and vaporization of flammable gasoline
fumes have caused several accidents. Women, in particular,
have been warned to watch out as they have been involved
in most of the incidents so far.
Oil companies, consumer groups, automakers
and fire departments have also got in on the act, coming
up with a number of ways to make sure pumping gas doesn't
spell disaster for the driver.
people don't know just how dangerous self-service gas
stations can be," a service station operator told
the Mainichi. "We want to enlighten people on how
self-service stations can be used safely."
In 2001 there were only 422 self service
gas stations in Japan. By the end of 2002 that number
had increased to 1,351. Most self service gas stations
are located in cities.
Fire and Disaster Management Agency officials
said that they had received reports of seven fires that
have broken out at self-service stations across Japan
within the past yearl. One could have been potentially
A woman in Kobe got out of the front passenger
seat of a car and opened the lid of the vehicle's gas
tank only to be greeted by a small blast and tongue of
flame. Fortunately for the woman, a quick thinking station
employee carrying a fire extinguisher was walking nearby
and he promptly quenched the blaze. The woman escaped
with light burns, but the fire could easily have spread
into the car's fuel tank, or even worse, into the station's
Static electricity builds up easily in
many types of women's clothes. Depending on what's being
worn, static electricity built up by drivers could create
sparks that set off blazes of huge proportions at gasoline
stations, according to agency officials.
Oil companies are also doing their part
to alleviate fears of danger at self-service stations.
The Petroleum Association of Japan, recently supplied
self-service stations across Japan with vulcanized rubber
mats that counter static electricity. Stations are being
urged to place the mats near gas pumps.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association
(JAMA) is urging its member companies to make gas tank
caps out of rubber instead of metal to insulate them against
the potential fire hazards. JAMA has also issued a warning
to drivers to be wary at all times when using self-service
stations, pointing out that while the greatest risk of
static electricity comes during Japan's dry winters, gas
fumes immolate easiest during the hot summer when temperatures
remain high on a regular basis.
Self-service station operators, meanwhile,
have posted signs on pumps warning drivers about the dangers
of static electricity and asking them to stand on the
rubber mats before they open their gas tanks.
Agency officials say they plan to do what
they can to make sure self-service stations are safe.
"We foresee static electricity causing
more problems at self-service stations in the future,"
an agency spokesman says. "Because self-service stations
have been authorized by the Fire and Disaster Management
Agency, we plan to strictly enforce guidelines and strive
to make sure people know how to use them in a secure manner."