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What Are The OSHA Requirements For Gas Cans?

Marcus Williams - Thursday, August 18, 2016

Make Sure You Know These OSHA Requirements for Gas Can Storage

The OSHA Requirements For Gas Cans You Need To Know

Look around your job site. Do you see any of those cheap, red gas cans from the local hardware store? If you do, then you are probably not in line with the law. Following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and requirements is an important part of keeping your fellow employees safe, and these regulations include rules for gas cans.


If you do not follow these guidelines and requirements, you not only put your employees at risk, but you are also in violation of the Department of Labor requirements, which carries stiff penalties. Learn how to comply with OSHA requirements for gas cans to keep your employees and workplace safe.



OSHA Requirements Overview

OSHA Requirements Overview

According to OSHA 1926.152(a)(1), "Only approved containers and portable tanks shall be used for storage and handling of flammable liquids." Here's how you can tell if your can is approved.


OSHA's rule applies to all flammable liquids in quantities of 5 gallons or less, but does not apply to flammable materials that are hard to pour. The exception is quantities of one or fewer gallons, which can be stored in their original containers. Any amounts over 25 gallons should not be stored on site unless they are in a room designed specifically for that purpose. In light of this, a safety can is considered approved if it does not have a capacity larger than five gallons.Flash Arresting Screen

An approved can must have a flash arresting screen. This prevents the fuel inside the can from combusting if exposed to fire. The flash arresting screen extinguishes the fire before it can reach the fuel.Proper Covers

OSHA-approved cans need to be properly sealed. First, they must have a spring-closing lid. This is a lid that automatically closes when released, so users cannot forget to close the gas can and leave the site vulnerable. Also, the can must have a spout cover that closes automatically. Finally, the entire can must be capped with a child-resistant cap, and the system must be designed to release minimal vapor and reduce pressure inside the can.Proper Lab Testing

OSHA-approved safety cans are those that contain the Department of Transportation approval or have been approved by a nationally recognized testing lab. Factory Mutual Engineering Corp, Underwriters Laboratories, and a few federal agencies can do this testing.Proper Storage Requirements

Finally, OSHA has set forth regulations about where cans can be stored, stating, "Flammable liquids shall not be stored in areas used for exits, stairways, or normally used for the safe passage of people." Be sure to keep your gas cans and other flammable materials storage containers away from high traffic areas.


Difference Between OSHA-Approved and DOT-Approved

Difference Between OSHA-Approved and DOT-Approved

Because so much testing and oversight goes into making a gas can, meeting the right approval requirements can get confusing quite quickly. For example, some gas cans designed for personal use have the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but this does not mean they meet OSHA regulations. Also, gas cans can be labeled as UL Classified, and this does not mean they are approved by the UL. Instead, you need to have UL Listed to show approval.


Fortunately, the different between OSHA and Department of Transportation (DOT) approval is a little less confusing. The original wording of §1926.152(a)(1) indicates that metal safety cans had to have approval of nationally recognized testing laboratories, which led to some confusion. However, this confusion has been clarified by OSHA through a memorandum.


In general, if a gas can displays DOT approval markings, then it likely meets OSHA's guidelines. In a memorandum published in 1996, OSHA said, "We have reviewed the standard addressing the use of safety cans for flammable liquids at construction sites and have determined that the use of Department of Transportation approved containers meets the basic intent of the provisions at §1926.152(a)(1)." In other words, the DOT has stringent requirements, and OSHA accepts its cans.

Additional Safety Tips for Gas Can Storage

Additional Safety Tips

Using OSHA approved gas cans is the first step in preventing fire while using flammable liquids on a job site. To further reduce risk, consider these safety tips:


  • Use EPA approved cans to reduce vapor exposure.
  • Keep gas cans away from children and animals.
  • Store flammable liquids in a cool, dry location.
  • Avoid storing gas cans in the trunk of a vehicle.
  • When possible, store gas cans in a building instead of a vehicle.
  • Do not refill a container in or on a vehicle.
  • Fill only 95% full to allow for expansion.
  • Ensure caps fit tightly.
  • Shut off engines when refueling equipment from a gas can.


Remember, as an employer, you have a legal and ethical obligation to provide a safe workplace. If your work site has gas cans on hand, you must ensure they meet the right safety requirements. You can't trust the plastic can you buy at the hardware store. Do your homework to provide your employees with a safe workplace.