My Department has lead responsibility for the Dangerous Substances legislative regime. The Dangerous Substances Acts 1972 and 1979, together with a series of Regulations under this legislation, set out the legal framework under which petroleum and other dangerous substances are regulated. The storage of petrol is governed by the Dangerous Substances (Retail and Private Petroleum Stores) Regulations, S.I. 311 of 1979, as amended. The Act requires that all petrol storage facilities must be licensed. The Regulations set minimum requirements that apply equally to private petrol stores and storage for the purpose of retail sale (petrol filling stations).
The 1979 Regulations have been kept under continuing review and while operating within the regulatory regime set out above, Inspectors from the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) are sensitive to the economic situation of the operators to which it applies. This approach is in line with the general approach taken in occupational health and safety legislation and aims to avoid the imposition of undue hardship on owners of kerbside stations that do not meet the 1979 requirements.
To clarify, the licensing of petrol stations, run by private operators, is a matter for Local Authorities [or Harbour Authorities]. Under the aegis of my Department, the HSA has an enforcement function under the Dangerous Substances Acts, and a very limited licensing function in that it is the body that licenses petrol stations run by a Local/Harbour Authority. It also has a licensing appeals function.
In the course of an inspection the Authority will normally require the operator to apply to their Local Authority (LA) for a Dangerous Substance licence if one is not already in place, and will advise the operator that they will be required by the LA to comply with SI 311 of 1979 as far as possible, bearing in mind also the specific exemptions allowed for older "Kerbside" petrol stations in S.I. 528 of 2012. These exemption regulations allow for derogations from certain provisions of the 1979 Regulations, for these "Kerbside" petrol stations, as they were in existence prior to the coming into force of the 1979 regulations, and for various socioeconomic reasons were allowed to continue in operation under the special exemption provisions.
Notwithstanding the approach taken by HSA Inspectors in implementing the 1979 Regulations, it must be reiterated that petrol filling stations are particularly hazardous workplaces which require to be licensed by Local Authorities. The HSA continues to provide suitable guidance to all petrol station operators to ensure that they can comply with the relevant legislation in this area.