Petrol powered portable generators

Controlling the risk of static electricity when refuelling portable generators.



Filling portable generators with petrol creates vapours that can be easily ignited by static electricity or other ignition sources.

Workers can be killed or seriously injured if petrol ignites.

Dam Incident

Workers lining a dam with high density polyethylene (HDPE), a plastic, suffered burns when the portable generator they were refuelling ignited.

The movement of the workers on the HDPE liner resulted in the generation of static electricity. The static electricity discharged (sparked) and ignited the petrol vapours released during the fuelling process.

Construction site Incident

A 42-year-old worker sustained serious burns when the portable generator he was refuelling on the back of his ute caught fire.

Petrol vapours generated by pouring or spillage during the refuelling process may have been ignited by static electricity or the hot components of the generator.

Control measures

Before using a portable generator, consider the following:

  • Is a petrol generator really necessary?
  • Is there a source of mains power available?
  • Is there a diesel generator available?

Where it is not practicable to use mains power or a diesel generator, a petrol generator may be used.

When filling a portable generator consider the following measures:

  • Use approved fuel containers and funnels to reduce the risk of generating static electricity while decanting petrol.
  • Ensure suitable fire extinguishers are immediately accessible.
  • Inform workers of the hazards and control measures required to make fuel decanting safe.
  • Ensure portable generators are always placed on firm ground, in well-ventilated areas, away from heat and possible ignition sources.
  • Do not fill generators in low lying areas where vapours could accumulate and increase the risk of ignition.
  • Do not fill generators inside a vehicle, trailer or surface that prevents the discharge of static electricity such as on a plastic surface. In the case of the dam incident, the generator should have been positioned outside the dam to allow any residual static to discharge.
  • Before filling the generator with fuel check the generator is sitting on firm ground or earth and the person filling touches the generator and fuel filling container to ensure any build up of static electricity can be dissipated before starting the filling operation.
  • Ensure the container cap is replaced tightly on the filled generator before moving the generator.
  • Allow the motor to cool and ensure the generator is in an upright position in a well-ventilated space before transporting.