Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
November 2003
Commerce Addresses Safety Concerns with Merchandise Displays in Dispenser Areas

There are many public safety concerns associated with the increasing practice of displaying merchandise within a fuel-dispensing area. The most important, from Commerceís standpoint, are concerns with egress from the dispenser area during a fire; routine oversight and observation by the attendant of the activity in the dispenser area; and emergency service response.

As a result of an increase in dispenser-area fire incidents over the Figure 1: Display too high and unbalanced past three years due to static discharges during vehicle fueling, Commerce and local fire departments have become increasingly concerned with dispenser area operations, congestion and practices that may enhance the risk of fire.

Commerceís concerns relating to the combustible nature of the  merchandise are addressed through NFPA 30A - section 9.2.7, HouseKeeping, which requires that the dispensing area and the area within any dike be kept free of vegetation, debris, and any other material that is not necessary to the proper operation of the motor-fuel-dispensing facility.

Due to the increasingly prevalent practice of displaying merchandise within the dispenser area, it has become necessary to better define the departmentís expectation and policy associated with dispenser-area merchandise displays. Commerce interprets the NFPA 30A application of this section to significantly restrict material that poses a fire risk due to its combustible or absorptive nature, thereby contributing to the ignition or extension of a fire. Shrink-wrap, a common packaging material, is highly combustible. Gardening mulch and bundles of firewood pose a risk from both the combustible and absorptive characteristics of the material.

Typically, the placement of the vehicle being fueled, obstruction resulting from the fueling hose connection, and location of the dispenser and associated canopy structure and equipment significantly limit egress options. Merchandising arrangement s can also significantly impede escape to allow only one narrow path of egress. This is not only a concern for the individual fueling the vehicle at which the fire may originate; it is a concern for individuals at the adjacent fuel dispenser locations.

Merchandise arrangements can also play a significant role in how effectively emergency services can respond to a fire in the fuel-dispensing area. Stacking height and spacing of display material can greatly affect the ability to mitigate a fire and keep it from spreading to vehicles and structures on the service station property.

Figure 2: Acceptable merchandising layout in dispensing areaTherefore, Commerce has determined that all dispenser-area merchandising materials shall be spaced a minimum of 3 feet horizontally from the dispenser cabinet and have an overall height of no greater than 3 feet. Exempt from this requirement are trash receptacles and window-washing-fluid containers. An example of an acceptable dispenser area layout with merchandising materials is shown in the picture to the left.

Fuel-dispensing stations seeking further information on safe merchandise display should contact their local petroleum inspector. Click here for the inspector in your area.

--Greg Bareta

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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