Gasoline is so well-known to us that we sometimes forget it is a volatile substance that catches fire and can easily blow up. After all, the propelling force that makes our vehicles move is nothing more than small, controlled explosions of gasoline vapor in the engine. All petroleum-based fuels—diesel fuel, kerosene, and others—are subject to fires and explosions and need to be handled with care. Even empty oil drums are likely to blow up when cut into with a torch.
Gasoline fumes can detonate with seemingly little provocation, causing catastrophic burns. But the very familiarity of gasoline can make us forget this fact. Some folks use gasoline to start bonfires, which is never a good idea. Three cases to remind you of the dangers of gasoline near an open flame are:
- December 2017: in North Fort Myers, Florida, two young men attempted to set a bonfire using gasoline, creating a blast that left both of them severely burned.
- December 2017: an 80-year-old man in Harrison County, Mississippi, suffered serious burns after using gasoline to start a fire in a fire pit.
- Thanksgiving Day, 2017: in Franklin Township, New Jersey, a woman was seriously burned when she poured gasoline onto a bonfire.
In each of these cases, it was not the liquid so much as the fumes that created the blasts. In at least one case, flames from ignited fumes traveled into the gas can, causing an explosion that covered the person in flaming fluid. The action of flames spewing forth from a gas can is called “jetting,” and it is a known danger of some gas cans.
Your Choice of Gas Can Matters
Many of us keep gasoline for our lawnmowers and garden tools in sheds and even in our garages without a second thought, as long as we believe that our containers are approved for gas storage. But the can you’re using may not be safe. Plastic gasoline containers have special dangers, including the possibility of static electricity; even a small spark can be enough to ignite gasoline vapors. Over the past 20 years, more than 1,200 visits to the ER and at least 11 deaths can be attributed to pouring gasoline out of plastic cans.
Another problem concerns the fact that a number of plastic gas cans do not have flame arrestors, which prevent fire from being sucked back into the can. The lack of flame arrestors and the resulting “jetting” of fuel were the reason plastic gas can maker Blitz of Oklahoma went out of business in 2012. Metal cans generally have flame arrestors in place.
The lack of flame arrestors has been a known problem since 1973, when Consumer Reports magazine advocated for flame arrestors. In 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) conducted tests that demonstrated the dangers of jetting. A 2-gallon container filled with a gasoline-diesel mix produced a flame jet that reached as far as 13 feet from the mouth of the can. It was demonstrated that ignited liquid could land on a person more than four feet away, burning them severely.
Gas Can Manufacturer Liability
Without an arrestor device, a gas can creates a suction effect when close to a heat source, pulling hot air or flames inside the container where they can react with the gasoline fumes and create an explosion. It is estimated that it would cost a manufacturer only about 50 cents to add an arrestor to every gas can they produce. So why don’t all cans come equipped with one? The only reason is to save the company money — at the expense of consumer safety.
When a person has been injured by a product which was defectively designed or assembled, they may seek compensation for their injuries by filing a product liability lawsuit. Another theory under which injured users can seek redress is that of strict liability — meaning that the product is inherently dangerous and that users are not adequately warned of the risks involved.
A personal injury lawyer who has experience in product liability cases can pursue a manufacturer and others in the supply chain for damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and, in some circumstances, punitive damages.
Storing Gasoline Safely
There’s no denying that gasoline comes in handy, but it needs to be treated with respect. Some tips for safely keeping the fuel include:
- Always use an approved container with a flame arrestor in place. Leave some empty space in the can for the gas to expand.
- Never store more than 5 gallons of gas in one location.
- Keep containers tightly closed and store at room temperature, away from pilot lights, water heaters, and other heat sources, including the summer sun.
- Never pour gasoline on a fire, hot coals, or other heat source. Never use gasoline around open flames.
If you or someone you care about is a victim of serious burns caused by someone else’s carelessness or a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to financial compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, physical disability, reduced mental health, disfigurement and emotional pain and suffering. If you’re considering a burn injury lawsuit, it’s important to talk with an attorney with significant experience in South Carolina personal injury or product liability law.
The Louthian Law Firm has been trying — and winning — severe personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina since 1959. Keep in mind that there is a three-year statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims, so don’t delay. Contact the Louthian Law Firm today so that we can start your journey to justice. The initial consultation is always free. To speak with a Columbia burn injury attorney, call us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, use our online contact form.