lunes, 20 de febrero de 2012

Safety at the gas pump

An Amoco pumper might have a thousand or more customers per day. That’s a lot of traffic at the fuel islands, cars coming and going, customers pumping gas, and visits from the Amoco manager or the state fuel inspectors. It’s a busy place! There were no fatalities at our gas station, but we did experience some serious safety related incidents.

It was a busy Friday afternoon, and all the islands were pumping continually. Cars were lined up to get gas. A customer in a hurry pumped gas at the Number 2 Island. He left the hose in the tank of his car and took off in a hurry, thus ripping the hose from the dispenser. It fell away from the car into the driveway of the station.

The next customer reported the incident, and I quickly covered the pump controls with a plastic bag and a sign that said PUMP OUT OF ORDER. Then I went to get a padlock to lock the pump. Before I returned a second customer pulled into the Number 2 Island. A well-dressed man got out of his car and pressed the Premium gas selector button. The pump opened up, spraying gasoline all over the platform. Where was the safety cutoff valve to stop the flow of fuel if the hose was not attached to the dispenser? To this day I don’t know. Gas gushed from the dispenser, landed around the fuel island, and completely soaked the customer. We ran to help him, turned off the pump, removed his suit coat, and took him to the restroom where we helped him to wash himself as best possible. We gave him a set of Amoco overalls that we kept in the office, and Oscar rushed him to a hospital. I closed off the area and washed it down with water. It was a minor spill, and fortunately no one lit a cigarette or threw a match into the spilled gasoline. The potential for serious harm was high.

We had liability insurance for safety incidents and accidents. The customer sued us for negligence, for not having locked down the pump with a padlock at the time of the incident. The case went to insurance court. Oscar and I sympathized with the customer, as it appeared that we were negligent, but the insurance company was defending us in court and a judge with twelve jurors would make a decision about the claim.

A second safety incident occurred on a Sunday morning, a time when there were few customers in the station, a woman in a tight dress and high heels came screaming into the station, as well as limping. She started shouting at the cashier, “My back! My back! Help me!” She explained that she had gotten out of her car to pump gas and had slipped on an oil slick in front of the pump. The cashier examined the spot where the accident supposedly occurred, but there was no visible evidence of an oil slick or a slip mark in the concrete from the lady’s heel. Nothing! The lady sued us for negligence. The insurance company took the case to court, and Oscar and I thought that the incident was an example of insurance fraud.

About twelve months later, when the insurance company reported the verdicts of these two trials, we couldn’t believe what we heard. The gas-soaked customer lost his case, but the lady won her case! We never did find out how the juries made their determinations.
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