Standard Work for Being as Safe as Possible When Refueling Your Vehicle

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It's possible that I could start traveling again for my healthcare consulting work next month… or maybe in July. My colleagues at Value Capture aren't sure yet how this will work out, but clients are sharing their current plans for starting to re-open — to a new normal, not the old normal.

As I mentioned (if not buried) in a post last week, my wife and I relocated from Orlando to Los Angeles last week because she is starting a new job (we will still have our permanent home in Texas).

Anyway, as the consultants start to think about traveling again, I have compiled some thoughts from my own research and experience since I'm the only one who has flown or stayed in hotels over the past two months, due to the relocation.

I decided to write up a few separate blog posts to share my thoughts more broadly, as I hope they are helpful:

I've talked to a lot of people who haven't gotten gas much (or at all) since they're staying at home and not driving much.

Our temporary apartment complex says we are supposed to wear masks in common areas. So, if I were going to get gas here, I'd wash my hands, put on a clean mask, and off I'd go. I'd leave the mask on the whole time, door-to-door, as to avoid touching it.


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One could argue that refueling a car is not likely to bring you into contact with anybody, so a mask might not be necessary.

The fuel pump and the automated payment terminal are surfaces where the coronavirus could live and be transmitted.

“Well before the coronavirus crisis, the handles of gas pumps were found to be the filthiest of any surface out there in a 2011 study by personal hygiene company Kimberly-Clark.”

via The Mercury News

During the pandemic, it's better to be cautious, I figure.

We keep a roll of paper towels in the car. I've used said paper towel to push buttons on the fuel terminal — entering your zip code (I wish that wasn't necessary these days), pushing buttons or the screen to say if it's credit or debit, do you want a receipt, etc.

The screens and hard buttons work if you put the paper towel over your finger. If the gas station has paper towels as part of the window washing equipment, you could grab one of those.

I really wish it was possible to do a contactless payment using Apple Pay. If it's possible somewhere, it's not common. Apple says Exxon and BP allow you use Apple Pay through their app, so I might have to seek those stations out.

“If you use Exxon or BP they both have apps that you can use. The Exxon app is part of a rewards program. You can use Apple Pay within the app. You scan the QR code on the pump and it activates the pump.”

Via comment on an Apple forum

Putting the credit card in and out of the terminal seems like it would create minimal risk. I do occasionally wipe my main credit card down with disinfecting cleaning spray when I'm at home — what can it hurt?

Two paper towels together works well for grabbing the fuel nozzle and squeezing the pump.

You could use disinfecting wipes, but I have less supply of those, so maybe that's overkill compared to just a paper towel.

If I am washing the windshield with their scrubber and mystery solution, I'm also using the paper towel to grab that.

When done fueling, throw the paper towels away. Hopefully, it's not the type of trash can with a door that you'd have to touch or push.

You then have a choice even if you've taken precautions with not touching anything:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Washing hands with soap and water

If I had a mask on, and I was concerned about conserving hand sanitizer, I'd go inside and wash my hands in the gas station bathroom with soap and water. During our relo road trip, if it was a really large gas station, I could walk into the large multi-person bathroom without touching a door.

If it was a smaller gas station, with a single bathroom with a door, I'd wash my hands and use a paper towel to open the door to get out.

If the gas station seemed really crowded or if I wasn't wearing a mask, I'd just use hand sanitizer.

Soap and water, when you have the reasonable choice, is more effective than hand sanitizer. I never use hand sanitizer at home, since I have ready and ample access to soap and hot water. See CDC guidelines on that.

Also, as this article says, you could use disposable gloves if you have them. But, don't litter. And, make sure you take the gloves off properly in a way that doesn't contaminate you.

What have you learned through your own experience or your own research? Leave a comment…

This seems like a time to rely on evidence-based “best practices” instead of experimenting our way to a good outcome (considering the risk that would entail).

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

3 Comments
  1. Mark Graban says

    Here’s an additional idea / tip from my colleague Shana:

  2. Brian says

    The thought of going into a gas station bathroom makes me shudder. I keep a box of nitrile gloves in the car to use for fill ups. I haven’t wiped down a credit card yet. No impact on the little magnetic stip on the back?

    1. Mark Graban says

      The worst that’s happened is that I wiped away the 3 security code digits from the back of the one card.

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