Gasoline Safety

Gasoline is readily available and routinely used in most households. In spite of the routine use of gasoline, many people are unaware of or unappreciative of the dangers of gasoline.  Gasoline is dangerous because it is highly volatile. The fumes are capable of ignition up to 12 feet away from a pooled source. It can float on water and may spread long distances, making ignition and flashback possible. Gasoline may ignite from a nearby spark, flame, or even static electricity and become a “fireball” with a temperature of 15,000 degrees F.

Two physical properties explain why gasoline is significantly more hazardous than other flammable liquids found in the home:

  • Flash point—the minimum temperature at which the liquid will give off sufficient vapor to form an ignitable mixture with air.
  • Vapor density—ratio of density of vapor to the density of air. Substances with a vapor density greater than 1 are heavier than air and tend to accumulate in low or enclosed spaces.

Example Liquids and Their Properties

SubstanceClassFlash PointVapor Density**
GasolineFlammable Liquid-45 o F3-4
PropaneFlammable Liquid-156 o F1.56 @ 32 o F
EthanolFlammable Liquid55 o F1.6
MethanolFlammable Liquid52 o F1.1
TurpentineFlammable Liquid95 o F4.8
KeroseneCombustible Liquid100 o F4.5
Diesel FuelCombustible Liquid125 o F>1
Safety SolventCombustible Liquid100-140 o F4.8
Paint ThinnerCombustible Liquid105 o F4.9

Gasoline is termed Flammable because of its Low Flashpoint and High Vapor Density.

Kerosene and Diesel Fuel are termed Combustible because their Flashpoint is greater than 100 degrees F.

Gasoline produces ignitable vapors that are 3 to 4 times heavier than air and can travel for great distances along the ground. Gas vapors tend to accumulate in low or enclosed spaces.  These vapors can then be ignited by a nearby open flame, such as a pilot light of a water heater.

The vast majority of gasoline-related burn injuries and deaths involve males under the age of 45. Most occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

1 gallon of gasoline = 20 sticks of dynamite!

Two simple rules regarding gasoline:

  1. Gasoline has only ONE  function:  Never use gasoline as a cleaning fluid or solvent.
  2. Gasoline should never be used or stored indoors or in close proximity to sources of heat or flame.

Gasoline Safety

  • Never use gasoline around a flame source. Be particularly aware of sources such as matches, lighters, cigarettes and pilot lights on stoves and water heaters or in well-ventilated areas Start charcoal grills with fuels labeled as charcoal starter fluid—never use gasoline.
  • Fill the tanks prior to use. Refuel with the engine turned off and cool.
  • Running engines on gasoline-powered equipment such as mowers can spark and cause ignition of the gasoline.
  • If you are transporting gasoline in a car, keep the container in the trunk and keep the trunk lid ajar for ventilation.
  • Never siphon gasoline by mouth. It can be fatal if swallowed.
  • Always keep the minimum amount of gas required (generally no more than a gallon).
  • If gasoline is swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Seek medical attention immediately.

Common causes of gasoline burn injuries

  • Starting or accelerating a fire (bonfire, trash, brush, outdoor fire, etc.)
  • Improper storage
  • Improper Dispensing
  • Carburetor priming
  • Fumes near an open flame
  • Refueling hot engine
  • Car or boat repair
  • “Playing” with gas
  • Farm work
  • Industrial activity
  • Sniffing
  • Suicide/arson/murder