A cheap red gas can you purchased at a convenience store can be useful on the jobsite when you need a little bit of gas to finish out your project, but does it meet OSHA’s safety requirements?
This issue is one we find to be most prevalent in the construction industry, and is regulated by standard 1926.152. But there is also a similar standard for general industry, 1910.106(a) – specially sections 29 and 35.
There are many dangers associated with the improper storage of gasoline and other flammable and combustible liquids. Following these OSHA standards not only keeps you in compliance to avoid expensive fines, but it also helps improve workplace safety.
General Industry vs. Construction
The general industry requirements are a little less stringent than that for construction. Let’s review.
In general industry, “Safety can shall mean an approved container, of not more than 5 gallons capacity, having a spring-closing lid and spout cover and so designed that it will safely relieve internal pressure when subjected to fire exposure.” An approved container must be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as United Laboratory (UL).
The main difference with the construction industry is that the can must also have a flash arrestor screen. This is NOT a requirement for general industry.
UL Listed vs. UL Classified
There is sometimes confusion between UL Listed and UL Classified. There is a difference between these terms. Classified products have only been evaluated “with respect to specific properties, a limited range of hazards or suitability for use under limited or special conditions.”
In construction, the official language is as follows: “Only approved containers and portable tanks shall be used for storage and handling of flammable liquids. Approved safety cans or Department of Transportation approved containers shall be used for the handling and use of flammable liquids in quantities of 5 gallons or less, except that this shall not apply to those flammable liquid materials which are highly viscid (extremely hard to pour), which may be used and handled in original shipping containers. For quantities of one gallon or less, the original container may be used, for storage, use and handling of flammable liquids.”
Let’s break this down…
- All flammable liquids must be kept in quantities of 5 gallons or less, but if the flammable materials are hard to pour, they can be kept in their original container and quantity. Amounts over 25 gallons should not be kept at the jobsite, unless they are stored in a place specific for the purpose of storing that specific material. (1926.152(b))
- All containers must be approved, which means the “equipment that has been listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Factory Mutual Engineering Corp., or Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc., or Federal agencies such as Bureau of Mines, or U.S. Coast Guard, which issue approvals for such equipment”. (1926.155 (a))
- All approved containers must have a flash arresting screen. A flash arresting screen prevents the fuel inside the can from combusting if it is exposed to fire. The screen will stop the fire before it reaches the flammable liquid inside. (1926.155 (i))
- Approved cans must also be properly sealed with a spring-closing lid, a spout that closes automatically, a child proof cap, and a vent to release pressure and minimal vapor inside of the container. (1926.155 (l))
- Make sure you are storing your containers in a safe place. They should not be kept in places used “for exists, stairways, or normally used for the passage of people” (1926.152 (b))
As a contractor, if you find plastic gas cans or metal safety cans that are UL listed, you still wouldn’t be in the clear. The cans you use must also have a flash arrestor screen. Additionally, your shop might fall under general industry standards because it’s not technically construction work being done. Therefore, UL Listed plastic gas cans could be acceptable in in your shop. But once it gets thrown on a vehicle and is in transport or when used on a jobsite, the can must meet the more stringent construction standards in order to remain compliant.
Keep your workplace safe! Whether you’re in construction or general industry, take time to review these OSHA standards and be sure all gas cans your company is used are approved.