Best practice for oil distributors

The aim of all fuel oil distributors is to make timely, safe, clean oil fills into well maintained safe oil tanks that comply with legal requirements and individual company policies. It is important to know as much about the tank that is going to be filled and its location as possible.

  • What tanks may be a risk
  • Metal or plastic single skin tanks
  • Tanks over 10 years old
  • Poorly supported tanks
  • Tanks that are poorly located
  • Tanks not fitted to regulations
  • Tanks with signs of bleaching or cracking
  • Metal tanks with signs of rust
  • Best practice
  • Integrally bunded (tank within a tank)
  • Top offtake oil supply
  • Contents gauge
  • Overfill prevention device
  • Fitted to building regulations
  • CE marking on plastic tanks
  • Regularly serviced
Building and environmental regulations

If the tank is near to a drain, bore hole,river or other water watercourse, and a pollution incident would occur if the tank leaked or was overfilled, the chances are that a bunded tank is needed by law.


Oil tanks should be sited in accordance with building regulations, which protects then from a fire that may be started near by. Siting is typically 1.8m from openings into building and 760mm from a combustible boundary. If this can’t be achieved, a fire barrier can be erected between the tank and hazard.

Questions to ask

Questions you as the fuel oil distributor may want to ask the home owner
  • What is the size of the tank in litres or gallons?
  • How old is the tank? Is the tank plastic or steel?
  • Does the tank have a self bund, bunded wall or no bund?
  • Is there a gauge present? What type is it and is it in good working order?
  • Does your delivery require a ladder?
  • When was the tank last serviced?
  • Have you experienced an unexplained increase in fuel usage recently?
  • Have you also ordered fuel from another local supplier?

Obtaining good information about the tank, including its age, condition and location is vital in assessing whether it may pose a risk. If you have any concerns you should check the tank carefully before commencing the delivery. Remember, a tank failure could cause considerable inconvenience and cost for the customer. It could also result in loss of future business for the fuel delivery company and have legal and insurance implications for both parties.

Do's and Dont's

Best practice for drivers is to carry out a dynamic risk assessment on site before delivery.

Site safety checklist
  • Can vehicle access / exit site safely and park in a safe place?
  • Blind fill? CAUTION - See below
  • Is the storage tank visually sound and in good condition?
  • Is the tank clearly labelled with product grade and tank number?
  • Are multiple tanks interconnected? Tanks at different levels? - High risk of overfill
  • Is there a working gauge or means to confirm tank ullage safely?
  • Can you deliver safely if working at height?
  • Is the fill point in good condition / screw connection?
  • Is there a bund or other means to capture any spills?
  • Is there sufficient lighting to deliver safely?
  • Can the delivery be made SAFELY?
Blind fill / Offset fill
  • Check that any offset fill is permanently connected to the receiving tank (see 4)
  • There must be a suitable means of determining ullage before and during delivery (tank gauge or similar)
  • Overfill alarms should be fitted; drivers MUST confirm any alarms are on prior to commencing delivery.
  • Where a driver cannot check tank connection and/or overfill alarm is not fitted then at commercial site a competent person MUST sign delivery ticket ullage box to confirm there is sufficient ullage for delivery quantity before delivery can be made.

If a tank is at risk

What should a delivery driver do?

Particular distributors may have their own notification system for their customers. If your company has such a system then you need to ensure that your company’s system is followed.

Otherwise, if the delivery driver deems that the tank may be unsafe they should attach a warning tag or warning label and/or leave a post card with the owner.

The label may recommend to the homeowner that the tank should be replaced and point them to further information so that they can understand why their tank hasn’t been filled, what their responsibilities are as the owner, the problems a leak could cause and how to resolve the issue.

It will also provide contact details for the fuel oil distributor’s own replacement services.

Useful Links

Oil firing technical Association

Federation of Petroleum Suppliers

Oil Care

Environment Agency for England

Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Natural Resources Wales

Get to know your oil tank booklet

Find an FPS Fuel Supplier

Find An OFTEC Registered Technician