The Retail Motor Industry organisation has warned motorists not to use cellphones at petrol stations as they could ignite fumes.

The Retail Motor Industry organisation has warned motorists not to use cellphones at petrol stations as they could ignite fumes.

RMI chief executive Jeff Osborne was reacting to safety reports sent to the SA Fuel Dealers Association (Safda) from the United States, which cited three cases in which cellphones ignited fumes while vehicles were being refuelled.

In one case, a cellphone was placed on the car's boot lid during refuelling. It rang and ignited petrol fumes, destroying the car and petrol pump. In another incident, a person suffered severe burns to his face when fumes ignited as a call was answered while refuelling the car. In a third incident, a person suffered burns to the thigh and groin as fumes ignited when the phone, which was in his pocket, rang while refuelling.

“The reports caution that cellphones that light up when switched on or when they ring, release enough energy to provide a spark for ignition. Mobile phones should not be used at filling station pumps, or when fuelling lawn mowers, boats and other petrol driven equipment,” Osborne said.

Safda recommends that cellphones should be turned off and not used near materials like solvents, chemicals, gases and grain dust, that generate flammable or explosive fumes or dust.

Osborne said filling stations in South Africa compled with the strict safety standards and regulations enforced on them, but accidents did happen. “Several people have died and others have been seriously injured because of carelessness. In several forecourt fires, cigarettes were lit and in a number of cases, matches were struck to check whether the fuel tanks were actually filled to the top,” he said.