The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Keep Safe This Summer: Use Caution When Filling Portable Fuel Containers

23 May 2000

Keep Safe This Summer: Use Caution When Filling Portable Fuel Containers
    CHICAGO, May 23 The following is being issued by Public
Awareness Project:  Safe Handling of Portable Fuel Containers:

    With summer officially kicking off this weekend, here's an important
question to consider:  If you need to use a portable fuel container, do you
know how to do it safely?  It's a task that must always be done with safety in
mind, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
the American Petroleum Institute and other safety and fuel experts.

    "Gasoline fumes are volatile.  Static electricity can create a spark that
could cause a fire if it's near gasoline fumes," said Commissioner Harold
Hairston of the Philadelphia Fire Department, and past chairman of the
Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association.

    Spring and summer bring many situations that may call for transporting
gasoline or other liquid fuel in portable fuel containers, including for cars,
lawnmowers, generators, boats, jet-skis and other vehicles and equipment

    "Grounding is essential to avoid any build-up of static electricity that
could pose a risk," said Hairston.  "Make sure the fuel container is grounded
and stays grounded."

    Basic safety steps for filling a portable fuel container, according to the
NHTSA, include:

    -- Place the fuel container (use only an approved container) on the
       ground, outside the vehicle, to help ground the container.
    -- Keep the pump nozzle in contact with the container when filling, until
       filling is complete.  That helps maintain grounding.  Slightly tilt the
       nozzle so it touches the rim of the container, rather than placing it
       dead center.
    -- Don't use an automatic pump handle device -- fill the container
       manually and slowly.  That helps decrease the chance of static
       electricity build-up as well as spilling or splattering.
    -- And just as when pumping gasoline into a vehicle, don't smoke when
       filling a portable fuel container.

    Grounding, simply put, provides a path for an electric current to
discharge safely -- the electricity is dissipated in the ground, when a
portable fuel container is grounded.

    "Every time you pump gasoline, a charge of electricity builds up on
gasoline as it flows through a pipe or hose and this charge takes several
seconds to several minutes to dissipate after the gasoline has reached the
tank or container," explains Bob Renkes, executive director of the Petroleum
Equipment Institute. "That risk is avoided when you pump gasoline into your
car, because both the gasoline dispenser and the vehicle are grounded.

    "But a portable fuel container may not be grounded.  For safety, you need
to place the container on the ground and fill it on the ground," he said.

    Additionally, static electricity could build up when gasoline is flowing
into the container.  That's why it's important to keep the pump nozzle in
contact with the fuel container.  That contact sets up a connection between
the pump, which is grounded, and the container, to help make sure the
container stays grounded.