State Fire Marshal Clears Way for Self-Service Gasoline during Coronavirus Pandemic

Well. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the State Fire Marshal said, “Hold my beer,” and announced that Oregonians will now be pumping their own gas for the next two weeks, at least.

made the announcement on its Facebook page Saturday morning, saying it was suspending the regulations prohibiting self-service at gas stations in response to the impacts of COVID-19 on Oregon.

“During this unprecedented time of state emergency, we need to ensure that critical supply lines for fuels and other basic services remain uninterrupted,” said State Fire Marshal Jim Walker.

The self-service regulation is in place through April 11, and the agency said it would work with industry representatives to determine if the self-service rules need to be extended after that.

For lifetime Oregonians, who may have never had to pump their own gas, instructions will be posted on pumps, along with flyers from the Office of the State Fire Marshal explaining the new rules.

The flyer provides safety instructions for the dispensing of gasoline, general operating instructions, and measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to the agency.

The agency said service stations must still have an attendant on duty to “supervise self-service refueling consistent with the social distancing policies and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through sanitization measures,” and “implement and enforce the social distancing policies.”

Stations can offer self-service fueling without an attendant only if there are no employees available to work.

The agency says it “does not intend to actively monitor retail service stations for compliance,” but will “will reach out to them to provide education to assist them” if they receive word about a station that is not following the new rules.

The public’s response to the announcement was overwhelmingly negative, on social media anyway.

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“I’m not sure how this helps,” said one commenter on the Canby Now Podcast’s Facebook page. “Can someone explain how having us pump our own gas will limit the spread vs. having one person use gloves?”

No one could. Many others criticized the wisdom of such a change, when the general public is more conscious of germs and contamination than we ever have been.

“What a stupid idea,” said one Canby resident, while another asked, “How is this better,” with two question marks, so you know they were really ticked off.

A few, however, applauded the new regulations and said they couldn’t wait to take advantage.

“I had a gas pump attendant cough in my face telling a joke and then lean into my window laughing,” said one man. “I welcome this change!”

By the end of the day, the state fire marshal had “clarified” that this is a “voluntary” change for service stations, that allows self-service of gasoline if the stations choose, with the goal of allowing attendants to avoid close contact with customers.

For those visiting stations with self-service who touch a shared surface there or elsewhere, the fire marshal’s office reminds you to “please continue to practice safe hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and not touching your face.”

Gas station owners who need help finding employees to cover shifts may reach out to the agency’s Miriam Nolte at miriam.l.nolte@oregon.gov or 503-612-4252.

More information is also available at the agency’s FAQ page here.

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