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Safe Refueling

Four Rules for Safe Refueling:

  • Turn off engine
  • Don't smoke
  • Don't use your cell phone -- leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off.
  • Don't reenter your vehicle during fueling.

Another safety concern while fueling is static electricity. Static electricity-related incidents at retail gasoline outlets are unusual, but the potential for them to happen appears to be the highest during cool or cold and dry climate conditions.

In January of 2000 the Petroleum Equipment Institute began a process of documenting automotive refueling fires. This was prompted by a sharp increase of incidents that could not be attributed to a running engine or cigarette smoking, the leading known causes of such fires.

To date over 150 refueling fires have been documented that appear to be caused by a discharge of static electricity.

  • Out of 150 cases, almost all of them were women.
  • Almost all cases involved the person getting back in their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas, when finished and they went back to pull the nozzle out the fire started, as a result of static. 
    Most had on rubber-soled shoes.
  • It is the vapors that come out of the gas that cause the fire, when connected with static charges. 
    There were 29 fires where the vehicle was reentered and the nozzle was touched during refueling from a variety of makes and models. Some resulting in extensive damage to the vehicle, to the station, and to the customer.
  • Seventeen fires that occurred before, during or immediately after the gas cap removed and before fueling began.

It is recommended that you do not get back in the car while filling with gas. If you have to get in your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure you get out, close the door, touching the metal with a bare hand, before you ever pull the nozzle out. This way the static from your body will be discharged before you remove the nozzle.

You can find out more information by going to www.pei.org/static/.

Reviewed 2011-01-24.

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