Volume 93, Issue 26

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Throne speech fails to enthral

Robotic arm helps make history

Biotech incubator to attract research business

Harris makes hushed appearance at Western

Gas stations disconnect cellphones

Organization is key to conference


Caught on campus

Gas stations disconnect cellphones

By Stephanie Cesca
Gazette Staff

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority have said using a cellphone at a gas pump may be a fire hazard. However, the cellphone industry is retaliating and said this warning is nothing short of an urban myth.

Tom Zach, spokesperson for the TSSA, said they issued the advisory under the Gasoline Handling Code of Ontario to let the public know of the possibility of flash fires – a brief flash or a flame which could lead to a fire. "We'd rather be preventative, rather than reacting to a situation," Zach said.

"There has never been a documented case of a cellphone causing a fire," said Marc Choma, spokesperson for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

Choma said the action taken by gas stations to prevent the use of cellphones on the premises was pointless. He added they overreacted to warnings issued by TSSA.

According to Choma, the warnings come at a time when Canadians are using cellphones more than ever. "We just topped six million," he said.

He explained blame is being placed on the batteries of the phones and added if the TSSA is going to advise against cellphone use at gas pumps, they should also issue warnings not to use other battery operated devices such as flashlights, compact disc players, or even cars themselves.

"The only thing that concerns us is maybe when a real hazard comes along, people won't believe them," he said of the TSSA, adding some oil companies may be heeding the CWTA's advice. "Some of the oil companies have retracted their warnings a bit."

With respect to cellphones causing flash fires, Zach said there have not yet been any direct relations. "However, there's been a number of instances [where we] haven't been able to determine the specific cause," he said.

Although the TSSA is aware of the criticism it has been receiving from the cellphone industry, Zach said they would rather be safe than sorry. "We're very much proactive in public safety."

Bob Chislett, director of communications and public affairs of Sunoco Gas Company, said while signs are not being posted, gas attendants are warning patrons not to use their cellphones while on the premises. "When we're advised by the TSSA that it might be a safety issue, we don't question it," he said.

Donna Hildebrant, a spokesperson for Petro-Canada, said their company was following the same process. "We are in the petroleum business, so we follow a precautionary rule," she said.

She added she was surprised with the amount of backlash and criticism gasoline companies have received due to their precautionary measures.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999