Safety: Gas cans, are they safe or not?

  • Published
  • By Mathew A. Terrell
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Safety Trainee
Everyone does it ... store gasoline in a portable container to use at home for the lawn mower, weed eater or keep in the car "just in case." Ever wondered what is safe when hauling or storing the gasoline until needed? There are a few things to consider that could save a life or, at the very least, property.

What is safe and why? Special containers that are self-venting and approved by nationally recognized testing labs, such as Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual, are designed to ensure gasoline is stored safely. Glass containers, milk jugs, anti-freeze jugs and ANY "cans" that are not designed for carrying or storing gasoline are NOT considered safe. Due to the summer heat, the gasoline will vaporize, which will cause the can to expand, and possibly "pop" the cap off or rupture the container culminating in an explosion.

The best method for storing gasoline involves an approved container, keeping it in a well-ventilated shed or detached garage; however, gasoline is most often stored in an attached garage. If you have no other choice but to store the gasoline in an attached garage it is important to follow these rules:

1. Store less than 10 gallons of gasoline at a time. If an accident such as a spill or fire occurs, then there is less to clean thoroughly or less fuel for the fire before proper steps can be taken to control it.

2. Place the container the farthest possible distance from a water tank's pilot light. Most hot water tanks are 18 inches above the garage floor. They are also elevated a step up from the garage floor, which reduces the risk of the vapors contacting the pilot light. Typically this is near the car door entrance.

3. Place the container away from electrical outlets. Power surges, static electricity or electrical charges could ignite the vapors if located within close proximity.

4. Place the container in a well-ventilated location. Vapors can travel; therefore, well-ventilated areas allow the vapors to dissipate before reaching other hazards that could initiate a spark.

By following these rules, storing gasoline will be much safer and less likely to result in an unexpected dangerous situation for family, friends and neighbors.