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FAQ's


Question: What type of motor fuel dispensing facility work requires the submittal of a permit application to the Office of the State Fire Marshal?

Answer: The rules governing motor fuel dispensing facilities are found in 41 Illinois Administrative Code 174 & 175. The rules require that no construction of a motor fuel dispensing facility or modification of an existing motor fuel dispensing facility shall be commenced until such application and plans are given written approval by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Also no such motor fuel dispensing facility shall open for business until inspected. Plan and application review for motor fuel dispensing facility is handled by the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Division of Technical Services.

Construction or modifications that require application and plan submittal would include the following types of work:

  • A facility being newly constructed
  • A facility being established in a building that previously contained a different occupancy
    1. Making substantial modifications to an existing facility. Substantial modification would include, but not be limited to, installation of new dispensing islands or dispensers in new locations
    2. Relocation of the master emergency shut off switch
  • Changing from one facility category to another (even if only part of the facility is being change or if the facility plans to operate under a different category for only a portion of a 24-hour period). Facility categories are:
    1. Attended Self-Service Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities Unattended Self-Service Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities Fleet Vehicle Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities
    2. Full Service Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities
    3. Marine Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities
  • Construction or relocation of buildings on the property, even if they are not the “primary” motor fuel dispensing facility control building.

Question: What type of motor fuel dispensing facility work would NOT require the submittal of a permit application to the Office of the State Fire Marshal?

Answer: Modifications that would NOT be considered substantial, and therefore would NOT require application and plan submittal would include the following types of work (these modifications would simply be inspected when the facility is due for permit renewal):

  • Like-for-like replacement of existing equipment (e.g., replacement of existing dispensing cabinets; changing existing dispensing nozzles, hoses or fittings; replacing an existing emergency shut off switch in its current location).
  • Replacing (or installing additional) collision protection posts or guardrails
  • Changing or replacing warning or instructional signs
  • Replacing or adding to the complement of portable fire extinguishers

Question: What information is required to be provided on submitted plans that accompany a motor fuel dispensing facility application?

Answer: The administrative rules require that site plans must accompany submitted motor fuel dispensing facility application forms. The plans must be submitted in triplicate. Such plans shall be drawn to scale and include the following:

  • Lot lines and dimensions
  • Building lines and dimensions for all buildings on the property
  • Location and size of tanks and pump island.
  • Location of control station (if applicable)
  • Type, make, model and location of dispensing devices or equipment
  • Fire extinguisher locations
  • Clearances from dispensing devices to property lines and buildings both on and off the property

Question: If I currently operate a permitted motor fuel dispensing facility do I need to periodically reapply for a self-service permit?

Answer: No. Previously permitted motor fuel dispensing facilities that do not undergo changes are not required to resubmit permit applications or plans to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal. Currently permitted motor fuel dispensing facilities are automatically re-inspected by the OSFM’s Division of Petroleum and Chemical Safety and renewed permits are issued upon determination of compliance with all applicable rules.


Question: If there is a change in the owner’s name or the business name of a motor fuel dispensing facility with a valid OSFM permit, do I need to submit a motor fuel dispensing facility application and drawings to the OSFM?

Answer: No. Facilities which have undergone a change of ownership, change of facility name or change in the facility address, should contact the OSFM’s Division of Petroleum and Chemical Safety for instructions on notifying that Division of the changes. Such facilities are not required to complete or submit a motor fuel dispensing facility permit application form or plans to the OSFM’s Division of Technical Services.


Question: Once I submit my permit application and plans for a motor fuel dispensing facility, may I begin using the facility?

Answer: No. The submittal of plans and applications for the construction of a new motor fuel dispensing facility or changes to an existing motor fuel dispensing facility is only the first step in the process. First you will be notified in writing of the findings of the OSFM’s review of your submitted documentation. Then, a field inspector (a Storage Tank Safety Specialist from the OSFM’s Division of Petroleum and Chemical Safety) will be assigned to conduct an on-site inspection of the motor fuel dispensing facility. Only upon final approval of the Division of Petroleum and Chemical Safety, and the issuing of the applicable motor fuel dispensing facility permit, may a facility operate.


Question: Is the same application used to apply for an “attended self-service station” as for an “unattended self-service station”?

Answer: Yes. All forms of motor fuel dispensing facilities use the same OSFM permit application. That permit application requests information pertaining to the specific type of facility that will be operated (i.e., self-service, unattended self- service, fleet service, full service or marine service). The application is available on the OSFM website at: http://www.sfm.illinois.gov/commercial/servicestations/applications.aspx.


Question: A local fire inspector is demanding additional features at my motor fuel dispensing facility that are not required by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, must I comply?

Answer: Yes. The rules and ordinances enforced by local authorities having jurisdiction may be more stringent than those imposed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The OSFM rules must be met as a minimum level of safety. However, local units of government may set more stringent requirements in their jurisdictions. Interpretations and appeals of local requirements need to be made to the local authority having jurisdiction and not the OSFM.


Question: If I comply with all municipal rules at my motor fuel dispensing facility do I still need to apply to the Office of the State Fire Marshal to operate the station?

Answer: Yes. Compliance with local rules or ordinances does not guarantee compliance with OSFM requirements. Local jurisdictions are not granted the authority to issue OSFM motor fuel dispensing facility permits.


Question: What if my motor fuel dispensing facility is located within the City of Chicago?

Answer: Motor fuel dispensing facilities within the borders of the City of Chicago do not undergo the Office of the State Fire Marshal permit application or field inspection process. These motor fuel dispensing facilities are inspected by the City of Chicago. Contact with, or notification to, the OSFM is not required for motor fuel dispensing facilities located in Chicago.


Question: What if I operate a motor fuel dispensing facility that is attended part of the day but unattended at other times?

Answer: Facilities that operate as both attended and unattended motor fuel dispensing facilities at varying times are required to obtain an Office of the State Fire Marshal “Unattended” Self-Service Motor Fuel Dispensing Facility permit. (The rules applicable to an unattended self service motor fuel dispensing facility are more stringent than those applicable to an attended facility, and therefore, the facility must comply with the unattended requirements). It is not necessary to obtain both an “attended’ self service motor fuel dispensing facility permit and an “unattended” self-service motor fuel dispensing facility permit for the same station.


Question: Are fleet fueling locations subject to the OSFM permitting process?

Answer: Yes - but please read this entire answer to get the full story. In accordance with the updated rules of the OSFM as of September 2, 2010 even those facilities that are not open to the public and are intended to serve only fleets of vehicles maintained by the owner of the fueling facility (e.g., truck, bus or cab companies, municipal fueling facilities, etc.) are subject to the OSFM motor fuel dispensing facility permitting process. Newly established facilities, or those that undergo physical modifications or changes in facility type as detailed in Question/Answer #1 in this document, must submit permit applications and associated plans to the OSFM's Division of Technical Services to initiate the review, inspection and permitting process. Existing fleet vehicle motor fuel dispensing facilities are not expected to apply for an OSFM permit if no modifications are being made to the facility. Storage Tank Safety Specialists of the OSFM’s Division of Petroleum and Chemical Safety will conduct inspections of existing fleet vehicle motor fuel dispensing facilities as part of their UST inspections at those facilities, and will ensure that proper permits are issued to the facility if it is found to be in compliance with rule requirements. Therefore, the permitting of all existing fleet vehicle motor fuel dispensing facilities will be a multi- year process.


Question: Since Fleet Vehicle Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities are usually unattended, are they subject to the installation of fire suppression or fire detection systems?

Answer: No. In accordance with applicable rules (175.230) fleet vehicle motor fuel dispensing facilities are subject to compliance with the rules applicable to unattended facilities EXCEPT that the warning & instructional signs and the fire detection and fire suppression systems required at unattended facilities need not be provided. (Signs marking the location of emergency shutoff switches are required).


Question: Can video cameras be used to view dispensing locations?

Answer: The rules (175.210) applicable to attended self-service motor fuel dispensing facilities require that “all dispensing units shall be readily visible from the control station without assistive devices”. However, the rules also allow that as an alternative, in the event the attendant’s view of a dispenser is permanently obstructed, or if a dispenser is located so that activity at the dispenser is not readily visible, closed-circuit cameras that provide a view of each side of the dispensing unit and project an image on a screen at least 6 inches in diagonal located at the control station may be used. Further requirements include:

  • The camera must be allowed to sweep to provide a view of multiple dispensing locations, but must provide a view on the screen of each dispensing unit at least every 30 seconds.
  • In lieu of closed-circuit camera, the facility may elect to have an emergency electrical shutoff switch that is located at least 20 and not more than 50 feet from the dispenser that has a permanently obstructed view. (Using the shutoff switch in lieu of a camera must be pre-approved by the OSFM).
  • 3. If a closed-circuit camera or viewing screen is inoperable and cannot provide surveillance of dispensing units at the control station, and an emergency electrical shutoff switch has not been approved by the OSFM, self-service dispensing of fuel at such dispensers is prohibited.

Question: Are emergency shutoff switches required to be tested?

Answer: Yes. The OSFM rules require that emergency shutoff switches by tested at least annually to ensure that they are functioning properly. Documentation of annual testing shall be kept at the motor fuel dispensing facility for 2 years and must be available for examination by a representative of the OSFM. If documentation of annual testing is not available then demonstration of the shutoff device will be required during the OSFM onsite inspection of the facility.


Question: Are dispenser shear valves required to be inspected?

Answer: Yes. The OSFM rules require that shear valves below dispensers be visually inspected at least annually to ensure that the dispenser is mounted properly. Documentation of annual testing shall be kept at the motor fuel dispensing facility for 2 years and must be available for examination by a representative of the OSFM. If documentation of annual testing is not available then demonstration of the shear valve operation will be required during the OSFM onsite inspection of the facility.


Question: What are the duties and expectations of an attended self-service motor fuel dispensing facility attendant?

Answer: According to the applicable OSFM rules:

At all times when an attended motor fuel dispensing station is open for public use, at least one attendant shall be on duty, and no motor fuel shall be dispensed at any time when the attendant is not at or near the control station or pump island.

The attendant's primary duty shall be to supervise the dispensing of motor fuels, motor oils and services normally related to the dispensing.

The attendant shall refuse service to any person who is smoking or who appears to be unable to dispense fuel safely, and shall shut off the dispensing unit if a patron fails to follow instructions in compliance with OSFM rules.

It shall be the responsibility of the attendant to:

  • carefully observe the dispensing of liquids into vehicles and portable containers;
  • control or eliminate sources of ignition;
  • immediately notify local fire authorities of any product spilled;
  • take other appropriate actions to prevent ignition of accidental spills;
  • refuse service to any customer who appears to lack the ability to properly and safely utilize the equipment (e.g., intoxication, inability to place the nozzle in the gas tank receptacle, inability to follow written or oral instructions of the attendant, or the person is too young to be aware of the hazards and requirements for safe dispensing of motor vehicle fuels);
  • to inspect all portable containers for conformance with 41 Ill. Adm. Code 174.

All attendants and other employees of the motor fuel dispensing facility shall be thoroughly instructed in the location, operation and proper use of the communication system, control station, emergency shutoff switches, fire extinguishing equipment, operation of the dispensing units, and safety regulations for the dispensing of motor fuels. Upon request, all attendants shall demonstrate to the OSFM their ability to use this equipment. Facilities that fail to instruct employees in these requirements shall be in violation and subject to enforcement action.


Question: How many and what types of fire extinguishers are required at a motor fuel dispensing facility?

Answer: Every dispensing facility is required to provide fire extinguishers that comply with the installation and sizing requirements of NFPA 10 “Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers” as well as the testing, maintenance and licensing requirements of 41 Ill. Adm. Code 251 “Fire Equipment Distributor and Employee Standards”.

In most cases, motor fuel dispensing facilities that comply with the long-standing past rules of the OSFM to provide at least two (2) portable fire extinguishers each offering a rating of at least 4A:60B:C will comply with NFPA 10 requirements. However, it is possible that large facilities may have to provide additional portable fire extinguishers as NFPA 10 includes requirements that restrict the maximum travel distance needed to reach an extinguisher. (NFPA 10 requires that the travel distance to reach a 40B:C extinguisher be not more than 30 ft. and the maximum travel distance to an 80B:C extinguisher is permitted to be 100 ft.).

The reference to 41 Ill. Adm. Code 251 requires that portable fire extinguishers be serviced, recharged, tested, inspected and maintained by individuals and companies that are properly licensed by the OSFM to conduct such work on portable fire extinguishers.


Question: What must be controlled by an electrical shutoff switch?

Answer: Activation of an emergency shutoff switch must disconnect power to all dispensing devices, to all remote pumps serving the dispensing devices, to all associated power, control and signal circuits, and to other electrical equipment in the hazardous (classified) locations surrounding the fuel dispensing devices, but not including intrinsically safe electrical equipment. Power for illumination of dispensing areas shall not be affected by activation of any of the electrical shutoffs when the illumination is located outside of hazardous (classified) locations or is intrinsically safe.


Question: Are there fees required when I submit a motor fuel dispensing permit?

Answer: No. Unlike UST permit applications, motor fuel dispensing facility permit applications are not required to be accompanied by any payment to the OSFM.


Question: Must I be a licensed UST contractor, or hold any other specific license to submit a motor fuel dispensing facility application or construct a motor fuel dispensing facility?

Answer: No. Motor fuel dispensing facility construction does not require a contractor to be licensed. Construction or installation of motor fuel dispensing facility buildings, dispensing islands, kiosks, control stations, canopies, lighting, signs, emergency shutoff switches, etc. is not required to be done by an OSFM licensed contractor. You should check with local authorities to ensure that no special permits or licenses are required, especially when conducting electrical work. Any work on the UST system, including attached piping and equipment does require the work to be done by an OSFM-licensed UST contractor. The distinguishing cutoff between UST system work and work that does not require a licensed contractor is the shear valve below the dispenser. Work above the shear valve at the base of the dispenser does not require a contractor to be licensed but work on the shear valve or below must be done by a licensed UST contractor.