Hazard summary

Several accidents have occurred in which workers were seriously burned when vapours from spilled gasoline ignited during the removal of a vehicle's gasoline tank.

Gas tanks are removed when rust-out or other damage makes repair or replacement necessary or for warranty work on equipment such as internal fuel pumps.

Conditions which give rise to hazardous vapour accumulations during the removal of tanks include spillage from the tank onto work surfaces and into pits, and evaporation from open containers used to store fuel from the tank.

Ignition sources include: standard trouble lights (which are not suitable for hazardous locations); smoking; compressors or other electrical sparking devices or tools; wet/dry shop vacuum cleaners; and nearby welding, cutting or grinding operations.

This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.

Locations and sectors

Most automobile service centres and repair shops. Also municipal and provincial garages, auto wreckers, vehicle manufacturers and race track operations.

Suggested precautions and applicable sections

The gasoline tank should be emptied before it is removed from the vehicle.

The vehicle's engine must be turned off during the draining and removal of the tank.

Whenever possible, the tank should be drained outdoors in an area where there are no ignition sources. However, in lieu of draining the tank outdoors, the use of an approved portable pump and storage tank shall be permitted.

Fuel drained from a gasoline tank shall be stored in approved safety cans.

The area where a gasoline tank is drained and removed from a vehicle must be adequately ventilated, and it must be isolated from activities or equipment which may cause an ignition.

Before hot work is performed on a gasoline tank:

  • cleaning procedures to remove all flammable vapours must be carried out
  • testing for the presence of flammable vapours shall be carried out, and any indication of flammable vapours shall require recleaning or further safeguarding by approved methods

Section 63 of Reg. 851, the Regulation for Industrial Establishments, must always be complied with when fuel is handled and when repairs on fuel tanks are carried out.