A year on, I still wake up around 5.30am and, depending on what I am doing that day, I could be on the road to a meeting or event somewhere in the country by around 6am, or sitting in my home office answering emails.
I am contracted for three days a week to provide advice on technical and compliance issues to members of the Petrol Retailers' Association (PRA). So, as well as dealing with members and attending PRA meetings around the UK, to enable me to keep on doing this I have to keep abreast of changes in forecourt technology, operational trends and national guidance. To do this, I participate in numerous national forums, such as the Petroleum Enforcement Liaison Group (PELG), the Energy Institute, Service Station Panel and many more. The big issues being discussed and considered at the moment are: the introduction of hydrogen to be dispensed alongside current vehicle fuels; how payment for fuel can be made using electronic devices on petrol forecourts; and the filling of LPG cylinders via Autogas dispensers.
Swapping from an enforcement role to one where I represent commercial interests has been a very interesting transition for me, and I feel it gives me a unique perspective on the industry. Fortunately, the downstream fuel industry has always worked with enforcers, particularly through the Association of Petroleum and Explosives Administration (APEA), to achieve safe, compliant and viable solutions. This, I believe, has led the excellent safety (and environmental) record of petrol forecourts in the UK.
My aim when I left the London Fire Brigade was to work an average of four days per week, to give me more time to both help my elderly parents and to pursue my interests. I am pleased to be able to say that my plan is working out.
Over and above my commitment to the PRA, during the past year, I have carried out a peer review for the Ministry of Defence enforcement team, and completed work for a few other clients. In addition, I have taken the role of chairman for an industry group concerned about the level of safety and compliance within the misfuel remediation industry, the Roadside Fuel Recovery Standard (RFRS).
The aim of the group is to identify all aspects of the work of a mobile misfuel operator where it is necessary for them to both comply with legislation and to work in a safe manner, and to produce a 'standard' that if adopted would demonstrate that the operator has implemented suitable and sufficient controls. A great deal has been achieved by the group since it was formed at the beginning of the year, including the Safety Passport Alliance creating a specific training course for misfuel technicians.
My work with the PRA and RFRS crosses over when misfuel remediation takes place on a petrol forecourt. The customer is the person responsible for the vehicle that has been mis-fuelled, but the employers ie the misfuel company and the forecourt operator must coordinate their risk assessments. When this was discussed with forecourt operators at the PRA technical committee, they highlighted that their greatest concern was that the misfuel company held adequate insurance. When RFRS investigated the subject of specialist misfuel remediation insurance, it was discovered that there were no insurance companies offering new policies for this type of risk! Needless to say, we've now engaged with a specialist insurance broker.
Now my daughter has left home and with my wife retiring soon, I foresee more changes in my life. Ideally, more driving in classic cars.
Name: Ray Blake
Job title: Consultant safety and compliance advisor to the petrol forecourt industry
Company: Petrolwise Ltd contracted to the Petrol Retailers' Association as technical manager (but has other clients too)
Career history: 1975 until 1980 Greater London Council, housing officer; 1980 until 2015 Greater London Council/London Fire Brigade, petroleum inspector (last nine years as head of petroleum)
Greatest achievement: Maintaining the balance between family and work (the necessary evil)
Tips for business success: Good communication is essential
Most likely to say: Please and thank you.
Least likely to say: I have had a terrible day whenever possible I avoid bad days; life is too short
Other interests: Family, followed by maintaining and driving classic cars