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Fuel for Thought: How to Handle Gasoline Safely

by jschleifer

At any price, gasoline can hurt more than your wallet. This week’s Safety Training Tips offers employees ideas for safe handling of this necessary, but dangerous, stuff of modern life.

February 3-9 is National Burn Awareness Week. This event is sponsored by the Shriners Hospitals for Children, with this year’s focus on preventing gasoline burns.

Most gasoline injuries are preventable if gas is properly used and safely stored. Here are some helpful gasoline safety tips from the American Burn Association that you can use to train your employees to handle gas with care:

  • Don’t smoke or use matches, lighters, or other ignition sources anywhere around gas. And remember that gas vapors can travel far from gas containers in enclosed areas.
  • Use gasoline only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Turn off equipment and let cool before filling the gas tank.
  • Never use gasoline to start charcoal on a grill-use proper charcoal starter.
  • Never use gas as a cleaning fluid or solvent—or to clean your hands.
  • Don’t store gas cans in your vehicle.
  • Store gas in approved containers, in a cool, well-ventilated area (for example, in a shed or garage but never in the house), and only keep a minimum amount on hand.
  • Never use glass or plastic bottles for gasoline storage.

If Someone Gets Burned

Burns, whether from gasoline or some other source, can be painful and sometimes need medical attention. The American Burn Association recommends seeking medical attention for:

  • Burns to the face, hands, feet, genital area, or major joints (knees, elbows, shoulders)
  • Chemical and electrical burns
  • Burns that cover a large area

Minor burns can usually be treated with first aid on the job or at home by flushing the area with cool water for a few minutes and covering it with sterile dressing from a first-aid kit. Don’t apply ointment, salves, creams, or ice to burns, and never break blisters.

Even Breathing Gas Fumes Can Be Harmful

Gasoline can also be a health hazard if you inhale concentrated fumes for too long or get it on your skin. Symptoms of overexposure to gas vapors include:

  • Respiratory problems such as coughing and trouble breathing
  • Rash from skin contact with gasoline
  • Irritation or burning in the eyes from gas splashes
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness, numbness in arms and legs, or burning sensation
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Nausea or vomiting

If an employee experiences any symptoms from inhaling gas vapors, he or she should get to fresh air immediately. If symptoms persist, the employee should seek medical treatment right away. If an employee becomes unconscious from breathing gas vapors, co-workers should call 911 immediately.

Why It Matters…

According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Nearly 150,000 fires occurring in the United States every year are caused by gasoline.
  • About 500 Americans die every year in gasoline-related fires.
  • Almost half a billion dollars in property damage can be linked to gasoline annually.
  • One gallon of gas has the explosive power of 20 sticks of dynamite!



Share Your Comments on This Tip

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  1. jschleifer        
    February 1, 2008 11:43 am


    Your statement about cooling the burn with cool water for a few minutes is not correct.
    It should be 15 to 20 minutes

    Guy E. Braxton
    Safety Director

  2. 44SR7B        
    February 12, 2008 5:39 am

    The statement says # Never use glass or plastic bottles for gasoline storage. There is no problem using approved plastic fuel cans for storage and dispensing. The problem lies therein the use of unapproved containers.
    The latest issue to arise in the use of plastic fuel containers of any type is the issue of static electricity build up, intensity and the discharge of the spark. This has been determined to be the cause of multiple gasoline fires in recent history. Compounded exponentially by the use of plastic bed liners in pickup trucks, especially in the warmer regions.
    A strict policy needs to be developed and then implemented within the departments using fuel, and filling equipment for the proper discharge of static electricity (grounding the vehicle and container before and after filling the container and or equipment). This sounds like a ridiculous amount of work and effort to go through for something so simple but really isn’t; it’s nothing more than a process of touching the proper items and making contact with the ground before being exposed to the fumes or in the area of the fumes.

    Ronald Moats
    Erie Community College