Q&A – 6 November 2023

Switching off mobile at petrol station

There is a petrol station in my city whose pump attendants normally require customers to switch off their mobile phones and car engines when they are refueling. I find this policy to be ridiculous and when I argue with those pump attendants they normally say that they are implementing the law. In this digital world where people use their phones to pay all kinds of bills including fuel bills, do we still have a law which prohibits the use of mobile phones at a petrol station? Does it mean that I cannot pay my fuel bills by mobile money? Please let me know if this policy of switching off my phone at a petrol station is backed up by any law or is it a mere policy of this one petrol station.
DS, Mwanza

Regulation 39 of the Petroleum (Retail Operations in Townships and Villages) Rules, 2020 [GN No. 818/2020] imposes an obligation on the retail petrol station operators to fix warning notices and pictograms warning their customers, attendants and visitors in the following terms, ‘No smoking, No Naked Fire, switch off the engine, switch off mobile phones and Petroleum Motor, highly inflammable’.

Hence it is not just a policy of the petrol station operator but a legal requirement that all retail petrol station operators should not just to warn remind their customers orally to switch off their phones while they are refueling but they should also fix warning notices and pictograms at their retail petrol stations requiring the customers, visitors and the attendants themselves to switch off their mobile phones and engines while they are at the petrol station.

The notices and pictograms should be displayed in the vicinity of the dispensing pumps, underground tanks, filling points and vent pipes in a conspicuous place from a distance of 3 to 5 meters. We understand there are petrol stations that allow customers to pay their bills by mobile money but such practice does not supersede the law or change it. These petrol station rules are meant to ensure safety of the customers, the pump attendants and visitors of the petrol stations. We don’t know how scientifically the use of mobile phone can endanger safety of the petrol station but we think the rules are meant to ensure safety of people and properties at the petrol station

Keeping medicines in school bus

Our school bus driver normally quarrels with traffic police who stop him and inspect the bus including the contents of the first aid kit in the bus. He is frequently asked by traffic police why the first aid kit in the school bus he is driving does not have certain medicines. Does the law require the first aid kit in a school bus to contain specific medicines? We find this to be very strange? Please guide us as we would like to be compliant if that is the law.
LM, Arusha

It is a requirement of the law under regulation 26 of the Transport Licensing (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations [GN No.76 of 2020] that a school bus should be fitted with a first aid kit at a conspicuous place which contains specified medicine and other medical requirements. However, the law leaves it to the Pharmacy Council to specify which medicines must be kept in the first aid kit fixed in the school bus. Unfortunately, we don’t know what type of medicines and medical equipment have been specified by the Pharmacy Council to be kept in the school bus. You may want to contact them directly.

Manslaughter for road traffic accident

Our brother knocked down a pedestrian to death at a zebra cross while he was driving. He reported the accident to the Police who put him under arrest and when the Police examined him by forcing him to undergo an alcohol test, it was discovered that he was under the influence of alcohol. He was subsequently charged with manslaughter instead of a traffic offence. Is this criminal charge fairly framed?
YE, Mtwara 

A person can be charged with manslaughter if he causes the death of another by a high degree of negligence or recklessness which amounts to disregard for human life. Knocking a pedestrian at a zebra crossing is itself a high level of recklessness which amounts to disregard for human life. Drivers are required to stop at a zebra crossing to allow pedestrians to cross. Secondly, driving under the influence of alcohol is also a manifestation of disregard for human life. Hence, in such circumstances, we opine that the Police were fair to charge your brother with manslaughter.

Employee roaming during working hours

I left my workplace to visit a friend during working hours without seeking permission of my supervisor as the company policy prescribes. When I went back to the workplace the supervisor asked me to explain where I was for two hours. I told him the truth but instead of taking disciplinary action, he reported me to the police who came to arrest me and subsequently charged me with the offence of being idle and disorderly. Can you tell me the legality of this charge? I find it very shocking.
TR, Musoma

The offence of being idle and disorderly is created by section 176 of the Penal Code. An employee who leaves his workplace without any lawful excuse and roams around during working hours when he is supposed to be at his workplace commits the offence of being idle and disorderly and is liable to imprisonment for a period of 3 months. The employer had the discretion to take disciplinary action against you or report you to the police for arrest and criminal prosecution. Much as you do not want to hear this, the charges against you are fair. The law requires employees to work during working hours and not roam around. We must state though that this is a rare occurrence at the workplace.