PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregonians can now officially pump their own gas under the newly relaxed measure that is aimed at facilitating social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lifting the self-serve ban that has been in place for decades was designed to minimize exposure for gas attendants while making sure citizens still had access to gas if employees are out sick. The Fire Marshal temporarily lifted the ban for two weeks in Oregon, however, it’s still optional for drivers and gas stations.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office said the decision to allow self-serve was not made lightly.
“There were some stations having difficulty staying open or closing evenings, so it was having an impact on their businesses and there was the impact to attendants—increased exposures risks,” said Mark Johnston of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Today, customers were learning how to fill their tanks themselves. After some drivers pulled up and waited for service, staff at several stations let customers know that for the first time in 51 years, they could pump their own gas.
“I think I’d rather have them do it—the gas station attendant,” said one customer. “It keeps them working.”
While some attendants were cleaning regularly, in most cases, KOIN 6 News’ Lisa Balick found that drivers were not using gloves or even a sleeve to hold the handle or touch the pump screens.
“If people are not careful, they could be taking more risk touching things,” said one driver stopped at a gas station.
While health experts said the virus is mainly spread through people coughing or sneezing during direct contact, they have also said it can remain on surfaces. The public still needs to protect themselves at the pump. People should use a paper towel or disposable gloves when pumping gas, and toss them before they get back into their cars.
Some rural Oregon counties were allowed to have self-serve gas a couple of years ago, but this policy is new to the rest of the state.