How Can Consumers Transport Gas Cans Safely?

by Steven Lacher

Improper handling of gasoline can cause first-degree burns up to fatal fires and explosions. You can reduce your chance of injury by following common sense guidelines when transporting gas. These guidelines include choosing the right kind of container, filling it safely and transporting it safely.

The Right Can

Ted Gordon, a Mississippi State University Extension Service safety specialist, discourages using glass containers, which can break or spill easily. He discourages food and drink containers, because of the risk of confusion about the contents of the container. Gordon recommends a laboratory-approved grounded metal or durable plastic container. Such containers are red and prominently marked with a warning label. This type of container is called a “safety can.”

Safety cans are designed expressly for the purpose of transporting gasoline. Underwriters Laboratories approved safety cans have a variety of features. Approved cans have a spring-loaded cap which closes the can spout automatically. This provides a leak-proof seal. Cap design of approved safety cans releases internal vapor pressure. When internal pressure reaches 5 psi, the cap will lift slightly, venting off vapors. This buildup can occur if the can is exposed to excessive outside heat. Approved safety cans are equipped with a flash-arresting screen inside the spout. This screen prevents a fire outside the can from traveling inside to cause an internal fire or explosion.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration rule on safety cans--Rule 1926.152(a)(1)--allows for plastic safety cans, and does not mandate that plastic containers have a spring closing lid, spout cover and flash-arresting screen. However, many state safety codes and jurisdictions mandate the extra features.

Fill the Can Properly

Jane Van Ryan of The American Petroleum Institute recommends the following guidelines for filling your safety can at a gasoline pump. Put the safety can on the ground to prevent static electricity, which can ignite fuel vapors. Fill the safety can slowly and carefully. Minimize the chance of spills by keeping the nozzle in contact with the rim of the container opening. This also decreases static electricity buildup.

Ted Gordon recommends filling the container to 95 percent of its capacity, to allow for heat expansion. Once you have finished filling the safety can, tightly seal the cap.

Lastly, wipe off any gasoline that has spilled on the outside of the container, or allow it to evaporate before placing the safety can in your vehicle.

Transport It Safely

Herb Willcut, a Mississippi State agricultural engineer and Extension safety specialist, says that transporting gasoline requires careful attention to safety. He recommends securing containers against tipping during transport. Safety cans should be covered with a tarp, keeping them out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Filled safety cans should never be transported inside a vehicle’s passenger compartment. The closed confines of the passenger compartment trap vapors, which could explode if ignited by a spark.

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