Establish the right safeguards
All retail fuel forecourts (manned/unmanned) have the potential to become hazardous environments, but any fears can easily be allayed by establishing the right safeguards.
More and more supermarkets and petrol forecourts are operating a 24-hour service, seven days a week, to keep pace with consumer demand. As a consequence, staffing these sites can become a real issue, especially during the night shift when it is compulsory for employers to provide lone worker protection.
One possible solution would be to install pay at the pump facilities and leave the sites unmanned at nighttime, however, it is important to recognise that additional precautions will be required to uphold current safety regulations.
According to the Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014, forecourt operators have a duty of care to ensure the ongoing safety and well-being of their staff and visitors. These responsibilities toward the health and safety of customers remain unchanged during unmanned hours.
Unmanned stations are a practical solution for many fuel retailers, especially those in rural areas, but they come with their own set of challenges. The absence of human supervision raises the likelihood of incidents, such as fuel spills, whilst increasing the vulnerability of a site to theft and vandalism.
One of the primary concerns is accidental fuel spillage on the forecourt. Petrol is highly flammable, and if it comes into contact with an ignition source, it may catch alight and constitute a possible threat to visitors and property.
To mitigate this issue, fuel retailers can install closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitoring systems that allow them to observe their stations remotely. These security systems can alert owners or their maintenance providers to any unusual activity, such as a potential perpetrator trying to break into the station or tamper with the dispensers.
It’s essential to note that unmanned petrol stations are still a relatively new concept in the UK, and as a consequence, limited data are available on their safety record. However, with proper precautions and monitoring, they can be a safe and convenient option for drivers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), recommends that all petrol stations should have appropriate safety measures in place, such as remote monitoring security systems. There must be a supply of dry sand and fire extinguishers readily available, and safety notices such as ‘No Smoking’ and ‘Switch Off Engine’ positioned close to the dispensing area.
A recent sharp spike in drive-offs from forecourts has prompted renewed interest in unmanned stations, where fuel has to be paid for in full before dispensing can commence.
According to the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS), drive-offs cost forecourt retailers close to £100 million at current prices, and there is a persistent high percentage of incidents where payment is never retrieved or offenders taken to task.
Clearly, there is an opportunity to completely eradicate drive-offs via pre-payment at the pump, and this is where the unmanned stations come into their own. Unmanned stations are proving to be an attractive proposition for leaner operations or for larger networks wanting to provide a 24/7 service, without the cost of the overnight shift or lone worker protection.
There is, of course, a trade-off with the potential loss of food and other sales, but many retailers are analysing the numbers in terms of site locations and footfall levels, and reaching the conclusion that preventing fraud is preferable to trying to recoup the loss.
A must for all unmanned stations is high-technology CCTV with 24/7 monitoring to ensure the safety of the general public. Video analytics technology (also known as video content analysis, or VCA) automatically analyses video content, and when combined with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) provides a robust and intelligent security system for the site.
By rapidly identifying possible threats, CCTV makes unmanned forecourts a safe, cost-effective and secure alternative to staffing.
What customers say
A recent survey by Suresite Group has revealed a positive shift in consumer perception of unattended retail services, including unmanned fuel stations. Customers appreciate the convenience of refuelling when they want to, without the need to visit the store or kiosk, saving valuable time in the bargain. This endorsement is encouraging more retailers to adopt the supermarket model and remain open for fuel sales 24 hours a day.
For small retail forecourts, this could be a godsend in what is currently a very challenging fuel retail climate, helping to boost ancillary revenue, particularly out of hours, with minimum capital needed but achieving maximum return on investment.
TSG is here to help
TSG has over 30 years of experience in the supply and installation of retail solutions for fuel sites (manned and unmanned) across the UK. With its extensive portfolio of products, TSG can satisfy the needs of any size of operation, from a single independently owned business to a national multi-site network.
For unmanned operations, there is a particular focus on comprehensive site security systems and advanced payment solutions. TSG UK is here to help retailers make the right choice for their business, offering step-by-step guidance along the way.
Tokheim EYE Security Solution
Surveillance cameras are fast becoming today’s most cost-effective and reliable answer to crime prevention, particularly on unmanned premises. One such option is the Tokheim EYETM Security Solution from TSG UK. This award-winning closed-circuit television (CCTV) solution was designed specifically for forecourts and has proved to be an excellent deterrent to criminals.
Tokheim EYE is an advanced high-definition (HD) camera surveillance system, activated by the slightest of movements on the forecourt, that is able to capture and store images of a suspected crime. The footage can be easily retrieved and viewed by site owners and authorised personnel, retrospectively or live, on any smart device.
For unmanned sites, it is important to employ the services of a monitoring station to maintain surveillance of the sites at all times. The station must have the ability to control power to the pumps and deactivate them in case of an emergency, to contact the locally based emergency services, and ensure a competent person attends the site within a few minutes and have a comprehensive set of procedures in place for serious incidents.
The cameras are interfaced with automatic number plate (ANPR) recognition software and point-of-sale equipment both at the pumps and within the kiosk. This provides a range of valuable information linked to the camera recordings. Real-time and post-event data includes details such as the pump number, receipt, time/date and other useful transaction inputs. Additionally, operators can make use of the extensive filtering feature, allowing them to refine incidents by type, such as tanker delivery or unauthorised access to dispenser cabinets.
Crypto VGA™ dispenser integrated terminal (DIT)
A pre-requisite for an unmanned site is the ability for motorists to pay at the pump, meaning fuel retailers who currently take payment in the kiosk or convenience store will need to retrofit pre-pay devices at all of the dispensers.
The Tokheim Crypto VGA™ is the most advanced and secure dispenser integrated terminal (DIT) in the energy retail sector. The Crypto VGA™ is fully certified in accordance with the latest PCI DSS approvals. It accepts credit, debit and fuel cards along with the latest technologies, such as contactless and smartphones.
Aside from an easy transaction process and modern payment methods, the Crypto VGA offers anti-fraud protection, with its integrated privacy shield plus advanced anti-tamper and anti-skimming measures, to help counter fraud attempts.