Fuel on the Fire: Policy Gaps and Poor Design Putting Petrol Station Workers in Danger

The SDA – the state’s largest union – is launching a campaign to improve the safety of petrol station workers, following increased levels of robberies and assault across the industry.

A report – released today – by the McKell Institute titled Fuel on the Fire: Fixing the Policy Gaps Driving Petrol Station Robberies in SA, details the major safety issues across petrol stations and what must be done to fix this.

As a result of policy gaps, poor workplace design and operating models, petrol stations have become a hotbed for theft and assault.

Please find footage of recent petrol station robberies and assaults here.

These workplaces are inherently vulnerable to robberies. They are located close to major roads, store large quantities of cash and tobacco and have poor security measures – putting workers at a high risk of violence and danger.

The McKell Institute’s Report outlines a three-point action plan to improve petrol station workers’ safety recommending that:

  • SafeWork SA establishes a Code of Practice for Petrol Station Security and Safety
  • The State Government develops a state planning policy to ensure strong safety measures are include in new builds
  • Businesses ensure sites are designed and updated to prevent violence and robberies

The SDA says that the stronger security measures to protect workers include:

  • The installation of safety screens to create a barrier between customers and workers
  • Secondary exits that are accessible by workers
  • Night windows to be mandatory when working alone
  • Secure cash machines and better CCTV and surveillance measures

The SDA will be discussing the findings of this report at the SA Government’s Retail Crime Roundtable next Wednesday May 8.

Quotes attributable to Josh Peak, SDA Secretary:
“All petrol station workers deserve a safe workplace.”

“The findings of this report are cause for serious alarm.”

“Incidents of theft and abuse are increasing in petrol stations and more must be done to keep workers safe.”

“Secondary exits, mandatory night windows and safety screens should be the standard, but for most petrol station workers, they’d be lucky if their workplace has even one of these.”

“The layout and security measures within petrol stations are not fit for purpose and are failing to mitigate the serious risks workers face.”

“No petrol station worker should have to go to work and worry if they’re going to come home safely.”

Quotes attributable to Irrinni Mihalaras, former OTR worker
“A customer threw a metal straw dispenser at me because I wouldn’t give him a refund. It hit me in the face and split my upper lip.”

“This incident has mentally scarred me. I felt unsafe at work after this incident, and the constant anxiety contributed to my decision to quit.”

“When customers would come in and start yelling or becoming aggressive, it made me really anxious, and I would start shaking.”

“If someone ever asked to return something, I was always on edge that they might become aggressive.”

“Theft and abuse were a regular occurrence and it felt like there was nothing we could really do about this, we just had to cop it.”

“I only worked in the daytime and still feared for my safety every shift.”

Quotes attributable to Dr Gemma Beale, Executive Director SA/NT of The McKell Institute
“Our report shows service stations are inherently vulnerable to robbery. They are located close to major roads; they store large quantities of cash and tobacco on site; they are increasingly open all night; and often staffed by a single worker. In terms of their vulnerability to robbery, service stations are the new banks.”

“There has been a clear failure to adequately manage risk across service stations.”

“Working in a service station is now a high-risk job, but it shouldn’t be. By the time the police are called, it is too late.”

“It is in everyone’s interest to make this work safer. Our report outlines a three-point action plan of actionable policy solutions to improve service station workers safety in SA.”

“We recommend that SafeWork SA establish a Code of Practice for Petrol Station Security and Safety. That the Government should develop a state planning policy to ensure consistency across new builds – ensuring secondary exits for workers. And businesses should ensure sites are designed and updated to mitigate against the risk of violence and armed robbery for workers.”