Plastic Gasoline Container Warning
Saturday, July 28, 2018
by Rick Chapman
Please take a moment to read this important warning. This was sent to me by one of our slip owners, Jake Collins.
Last week in the news, a video was shown where a boat exploded somewhere in the Caribbean. One woman was killed and another lost her legs. As a safety professional for my career, I wanted to take a moment to share some information. I know everyone is bombarded with various scary stories in the news cycle and I don't want to be part of that. But there is a widespread engineering failure that can lead to the type of explosion that happened last week. Often when people are injured, an analysis of the factors will reveal multiple conditions which combined into what is then called a "freak accident". For a Sunnyside boater, the factors would go something like this:
1. The boat operator has an additional gasoline powered engine to use, not fueled by the boats main fuel tank. A portable generator, outboard motor, etc.
2. To fuel this engine the boat operator has a plastic general purpose fuel portable container, or, even a plastic fuel tank designed for the outboard.
3. The container was filled at a filling station.
4. The container was placed onboard and has been there for over a week, out of sight.
5. Any ignition source, chafed wiring, cigarette ash, electrical switch, static electrical discharge, in the storage space will equal an explosion.
When ethanol was introduced to the automotive fuel supply, the portable plastic fuel containers sold everywhere were not redesigned to slowly vent pressure. As ethanol breaks down, which is does immediately upon exposure to air, it produces extra fumes. In a steel fuel container the UL type 1 or type 2 container has hard sides and is designed to slowly vent fumes. The inexpensive plastic portable gasoline containers lack such a design. They "puff up" until a pressure level is reached where by they "pop" and release a rich quantity of gasoline vapor all at once. If this event is unlucky enough to find an ignition source, the result is disaster.
What can be done by boaters?
Don't store any fuel onboard in enclosed spaces.
At home or on your boat, avoid general purpose plastic gasoline containers.
For any small engine at home or on your boat, don't buy fuel with ethanol.
Tell any tobacco products users, "Sorry, not on my boat".
If you have stored any fuel in an enclosed space, do a sniff test to check for a problem.
I hope this information is helpful to anyone unaware of the danger posed by these plastic gasoline containers when used in conjunction with ethanol.
Jake Collins, ALCM, CPPS, CSP, CSRM