What You Don’t Know Could Burn You – How to Avoid the Unknown Dangers of Handling Fuel in Your Shop

If you don’t think worse things can happen – think again.

HEADLINE: One injured in Johnson City auto repair shop fire and explosion.

“According to the Johnson City Press a fire at Auto Repair was caused by an exploding gas tank…One mechanic was injured in the blaze…The fire started when a gas tank fell from a car and ruptured…and the gas somehow ignited.”

HEADLINE: Fire heavily guts Broadway garage.

“An intense fire late Thursday destroyed most of a downtown car repair garage that has been owned by the same family for decades. Mechanics were replacing the gas tank on a car…when a spark from a welder ignited gasoline fumes.”

And if you don’t think OSHA is paying attention – think again

OSHA Citation – Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970:

“Employees were exposed to burns from the ignition of gasoline vapor while transporting gasoline from a vehicle fuel tank to a container located on a makeshift stand when an unapproved drop light fell into spilled gasoline”. Fine $6000.

OSHA Citation – Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970:

“Service Department Employees who transfer gasoline from automobile fuel tanks during operations such as, but not limited to, fuel pump repairs, did not use the appropriate equipment, such as but not limited to, an approved gas caddy…” Fine $13,078.

Obviously no one wants or expects these things to happen. But if you are doing auto repairs you’re probably servicing or replacing fuel pumps. And that can require the gasoline tank to be drained and/or removed.

If you’re not following proper procedures or using the proper equipment, then you too could be in the headlines, or writing a check to OSHA..

What You Need To Know

Today, gasoline tanks are frequently removed or drained to replace the fuel pump, service the fuel pump, replace the tank because of damage or to remove contaminated fuel. These services can be performed safely and efficiently if you know and follow proper procedures and use approved and certified equipment.

The purpose of this guide is to educate you on the best practices for handling gasoline and other fuels in your service department. Plus it will bring you up to speed on the equipment available, the certification requirements, and what that means to you and your operation.


The biggest danger with gasoline are the vapors. They are highly volatile. Not that gasoline spilled on the shop floor isn’t a problem. But gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can travel quite a distance through the shop. And it doesn’t take much to ignite them – a drop light or extension cord, or a spark from a tool, grinding or welding, or even smoking. That is why OSHA regulations apply.


OSHA has regulations that cover the handling of gasoline in an auto repair shop. It’s OSHA Regulation 1910.106 – Flammable and Combustible Liquids.

This regulation makes it “the employer’s responsibility to protect its employees from workplace hazards through providing appropriate methods of hazard control.”

In other words – make sure your employees are trained in the proper methods of handling gasoline and that the proper “OSHA approved” equipment is available for them to use.

Best Practices

The proper methods and/or procedures for handling* gasoline are more common sense than anything else. Let’s forget the equipment for the moment and look at what we’ll call “best practices”.

Ignition Source Control

* Make sure the work area is well ventilated. Do the work outside of the building if possible.
* “NO SMOKING” signs should be posted and enforced.
* Replace incandescent trouble lights with fluorescent lights.
* Prohibit any welding, grinding, etc. within 20 feet or less of where the tank is being serviced.
* Keep multipurpose fire extinguishers available and near the work area.

Fuel Removal and Storage

* The work should only be performed by employees with sufficient skill and training. Before doing any work on or in a gasoline tank – completely drain the fuel. Only use a portable pump and storage tank (gas caddy) that is Underwriters’ Laboratory listed or Factory Mutual approved.
* Gasoline drained from the tank should only be stored in approved storage containers.
* Never drain or store fuel in an open container. Siphoning by mouth should be strictly prohibited.
* If the tank needs to be removed from the vehicle, use a good jack with an adapter designed to support the tank.
* Before beginning any repair, relieve the fuel system pressure and disconnect the battery.

Cover these procedures with your employees and make sure they are being followed.

*(By “handling” we mean – (1) removal of fuel from the gasoline tank; (2) storage the fuel: and (3) refilling the gasoline tank.)

OSHA Approved Equipment

What is “OSHA approved equipment” and how does it benefit you?

Under OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.106- OSHA approved equipment must be tested, certified, and listed by a National Testing Laboratory, based on an approval standard of that lab. These labs include Universal Underwriters (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM).

For the purpose of this guide we will refer to the “approved equipment” as a gas caddy.

Gas Caddy

A gas caddy is a portable steel tank with a portable pump and hose attached. Its primary purpose is to safely transfer fuel from the gasoline tank; safely store the fuel during the repair process; and, safely transfer the fuel back into the gasoline tank after the repair is made.

This definition might seem over simplified but that is basically the function of a gas caddy. But there are two things to keep in mind:

Safety And Efficiency

In order to obtain FM approval, a gas caddy is tested for stability, strength, and fire safety. You certainly don’t want to take 15-gallons of gasoline out of a vehicle and then worry about the caddy splitting apart, or falling over or leaking.

That’s why UL or FM approvals are important. It gives you the assurance that the gas caddy has been built to OSHA approved standards. The design of these gas caddies requires flame arresters on the openings, grounding cables, non sparking skids, and fill gauges. And the pump must be constructed to prevent fumes leaking from the interior of the tank. welding hose manufacturers

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