Staying one step ahead of OSHA; the best practices for safely transporting gasoline
By Tim Walton
Gas cans. Every contractor and landscaper has them in their truck, on the trailer or at the shop. You fill ‘em up, toss them in and go.
But I bet you have never given much thought to which portable gas cans are being used for your landscaping or construction business.
You should. There are actually a few government entities that are interested in which gas cans you use and how you transport them.
Their interests vary from saving the environment to preventing you from packing around a veritable bomb.
Not using the proper gas cans can be a costly mistake both physically and financially.
Here’s what we figured out that will hopefully give you some insight into staying safe and legal, or should we say, citation free.
Here’s the short take on the legal aspect. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that a gas can be a closed container that with a maximum capacity of 5 gallons.
The can must have a flash-arresting screen and a spring-closing lid, and be able to safely relieve internal pressure. “Safety cans,” which meet OSHA requirements, are exempt from most states’ spill-proof container regulations.
A legal fuel can must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as United Laboratory (UL), to satisfy OSHA requirements. Interestingly, flash-arresting screens are not included in the UL listing. (Note: being “UL Classified” is not the same as “UL Listed.”)
The Department of Transportation (DOT) considers flammable and combustible liquids to be hazardous materials and subject to strict transport rules.
There is, however, an exemption for Materials of Trade (MOT), which excludes gasoline used “to support the operation or maintenance of a motor vehicle (including its auxiliary equipment) or to directly support a principal business of a private motor carrier such as landscaping, pest control, painting, plumbing or welding.
Gasoline is a medium or lower hazard and therefore the maximum package is 8 gallons for liquids (which is higher than the OSHA requirement).
Packages of MOT must be leak proof, closed and secured in the vehicle against movement and damage. For gasoline, the packaging must be made of metal or plastic and meet OSHA or USDOT regulations.
When it comes to transporting fuel in a pickup or trailer, DOT doesn’t allow a gross weight of more than 440 pounds for all containers of gasoline. (Gasoline weights about 6.15 pounds per U.S. gallon.)
That equates to about a dozen 5-gallon gas cans, and all the containers must be marked clearly with “Gasoline” or “Gas.”
If you work in California or other like-minded environmental states where the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) play a heavy policing role there are additional requirements for consumer and homeowner type gas cans that differ from OSHA safety cans and DOT safety cans.
CARB calls gas cans Portable Fuel Containers (PFC) with regulations intended to address spillage and evaporative emissions with the goal being to minimize such spillage and emissions with spill-proof spouts and auto-closing lids.
CARB specifies that containers must have identification marks on the container and spill-proof spout and be color coded for specific fuels: red for gasoline; yellow for diesel and blue for kerosene.
Currently, OSHA safety cans and DOT safety cans are exempt from CARB regulations.
Basic Gas Can Safety
Common sense should also be a key guide when it comes to transporting fuel.
For instance, never fill a gas can when it’s in the trunk of a vehicle or in the back of a pickup because fuel vapors tend to gather at the lowest point of enclosed areas. Gas vapors in the bilge of a boat or bed of a pickup tend to go boom when exposed to a spark or open flame.
Always place the can on the ground and keep the nozzle in contact with the can during the entire filling process to avoid ignition of vapors from static electricity.
Another safety tip: Don’t over-fill. Leave room in the container for expansion of the gas.
Vapor volume will increase as temperatures rise, so leaving open space for that expansion is important. (That’s why gas containers with vented lids is an OSHA requirement.)
Loaded and Locked
When transporting any kind of hazardous liquid it’s import to protect the containers from movement and potential damage. Gas cans sliding into hedge trimmers, mowers, shovel blades, rakes and other tools can be a big problem. Lock gas cans down before a wheel moves.
If CARB, DOT and OSHA regs don’t affect your business, the military-style (MIL-Spec) metal and poly gas cans work great because they take external abuse well and their mounting brackets are stout.
Kolpin also makes some nice poly gas cans designed for ATV/UTV use that work just as well in applications in a service body or trailer. They have special mounts that hold them secure, yet provide quick release.
Another route is custom fabricating brackets or cages specific for your pickup or trailer and to the gas cans you use.
If you need more fuel transportation ideas or are ready to upgrade your current inventory of gas cans, check out these brands:
Eagle’s OSHA-approved Type I Safety can is constructed of hot-dipped 24-gauge galvanized steel, which means it is lead-free and environmentally friendly. The pour spout and flame arrestor are made of non-sparking brass.
Their safety cans are available in multiple colors; blue for kerosene, yellow for diesel and green for combustible liquids. A spring-closing lid with neoprene gasket vents at 5 psi internal pressure.
These double-interlocked, no-weld bottom seam cans are available in 1-, 2- and 5-gallon sizes. Eagle; eagle-mfg.com; 304-727-3171
The Type II Safety cans from Justrite feature their AccuFlow Innovative Manifold allowing for faster, smoother and more controlled pouring. The quick-open fill port with ergonomic lift level allows for easy filling while auto venting protects against pressure build-up.
Justrite’s precision flame arrester screens are made of stainless steel, providing excellent corrosion and chemical resistance, with long length for safe insertion of gas nozzle, while reducing fire risks. The cans have large ID zones to designate content, which can reduce misuse or incompatible mixtures.
One-hundred-percent leak tested and backed by a 10-year limited warranty, Justrite’s products meet OSHA and NFPA requirements. FM approved, UL/ULC listed, CARB compliant. Justrite; justritemfg.com; 800-798-9250
Fuel Packs from Kolpin offer versatility that provides convenience for transporting fuel with unlimited mounting capabilities on your trailer, garage wall, pickup bed or service body. Made of high-density polyethylene, the containers are puncture resistant and crush proof.
Kolpin’s versatile brackets, combined with their ¼-turn release/locking action, allows for quick and easy removal.
Self-venting and self-closing spouts makes them CARB and CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) compliant and EPA certified. Designed to release pressures over 6psi, Kolpin tanks are tested to 20 psi. Kolpin; kolpinpowersports.com; 877-956-5746
Scepter is a Canadian manufacturer that uses its expertise of injection molded plastic technology to design a next generation, three-handled polyethylene Military Fuel Can (MFC).
Scepter Military Fuel Cans are widely regarded as the best quality, safest jerry can on the market today.
Since their creation, the Scepter MFC have quickly become the fuel container of choice for armed forces around the world, including NATO. Scepter; sceptermilitary.com; 800-387-6018