OSHA Gas Can Regulations

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Close-up gas can in man's hand
Close-up gas can in man's hand (Image: Daniel Mirer/iStock/Getty Images)

Gasoline is a part of everyday life. It is also extremely dangerous. Improper storage and handling can result in personal injury from first-degree burns to death. Many common containers sold as gas cans are unsafe; they cannot be sealed well enough to prevent spillage and fires. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets mandatory gas can regulations in Standards 1926.152 and 1926.155. These regulations define the size, make, safety features and testing guidelines for a wide variety of approved gas cans.

OSHA Approved

According to OSHA, only approved safety cans or Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved containers shall be used for the handling and use of gasoline in quantities of 5 gallons or less. OSHA defines a “safety can” as an approved container holding 5 gallons of gas or less with a spring-closing lid and spout cover, a means to relieve internal pressure and a flash-arresting screen. The spring-closing lid and spout cover is designed to keep liquid and vapor from escaping at ordinary temperatures and to lift slightly when exposed to excessive outside heat. OSHA defines "approved" as a gas can that has been listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing lab such as Factory Mutual Engineering Corp (FM), Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), or federal agencies such as the Bureau of Mines or U.S. Coast Guard. The most common safety can is the short and round red metal can with yellow labeling. Some are now available in high-density polyethylene plastic.

DOT Approved

DOT-approved containers are used more often by the general public. DOT-approved gas cans, or “jerry cans,” have a screw-on cap instead of a spring-closing lid, spout cover or flash-arresting screen. They do not meet the "safety can" definition, but OSHA has decided that they pose very little hazard and meet the basic intent of the standard. DOT-approved gas cans will be labeled certified to meet American National Standards Institute and American Society for Testing and Materials standard ANSI/ASTM F852-86. OSHA recently started allowing plastic jerry cans, but most are metal.

UL, FM Approved

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM) are well-known independent testing laboratories that evaluate products on their ability to meet safety requirements for intended use. Both test and certify safety cans and jerry cans. Containers that meet their requirements are given either a UL certification or FM approved. UL certification is marked “UL Listed” on the can; "UL Classified" is not the same.

EPA, CARB, and AQMD

Plenty of inexpensive plastic gas cans meet other state or national standards. Gas cans may meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements, California Air Resources Board (CARB) spill-proof regulations, or Air Quality Management District (AQMD) rules. None of these regulations can be substituted for OSHA or DOT approval. These classifications fulfill environment-friendly rules to reduce spillage and harmful emissions, but do not meet OSHA gas can regulations.

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