Gasoline is probably the most combustible – and dangerous – product that people use on a daily basis. Even static electricity can cause a gasoline can to explode. Other forms of gas used by consumers – particularly liquid propane gas for outdoor grills – also carry the risk of causing a fire or explosion.
The manufacturers of consumer products should know how their products may be dangerous if used as intended. They have a duty to mitigate the danger through product design or an adequate warning to consumers. When they fail to meet this obligation, and a consumer is injured, the manufacturer may be liable.
The lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, know how to pursue full and fair compensation for injuries and other losses caused by a gas can or gas tank explosion. If you have been injured in an accident involving these products in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, contact us today for a free case review.
A Simple Plastic Device Can Stop Gas Can Explosions
A full gas can is a potential bomb. A single spark can ignite gasoline fumes and cause an explosion. Gasoline-related burns are responsible for 13,000 to 15,000 emergency room visits every year, the American Burn Association reports.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has reported on fires that occur when attempting to fill portable gasoline containers – those familiar red gas cans – in the backs of pickup trucks equipped with plastic bed liners or in cars with carpeted surfaces. These fires and so-called “flashback” explosions can result from the buildup of static electricity and a single spark. Serious burns and other injuries may result.
NBC News reported in early 2014 that gas can explosions could actually be prevented if manufacturers made them with a simple plastic device known as a flame arrester. The devices are pieces of mesh or disks with holes. If inserted into the can’s spout, the flame arrester can stop flame from spreading into the cans.
NBC said the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has evidence dating to 2007 which shows that flame arresters are a possible solution to flashback explosions. Indeed, a CPSC memo readily available on the web says, “Flame arresters are not a new technology. They have been installed in gasoline safety cans often used in occupational settings for many years.” Why aren’t these safety devices installed in all gas containers?
Guards against LP Tank Explosion Are Required
In home fires in which the first material ignited is either natural gas or LP gas, the equipment most likely involved is a grill, hibachi or barbecue, the American Fire Protection Association reports. A U.S. Fire Association study of gas grill fires found that 43 percent were caused by some kind of mechanical failure such as a part failure, leak, break or lack of maintenance.
Larger LP gas tanks are used in homes to provide heat through whole-house systems or gas log fireplaces.
Since 2002, all LP gas tanks being refilled for consumers to use with their barbecue grills must have an over-fill prevention device (OPD) to prevent propane leaks that can cause fires and explosions. The device shuts off the flow of gas to a cylinder after 80 percent capacity has been reached. This limits the potential for release of expanded gas when the cylinder is heated.
Many propane dealers retrofitted older cylinders with an OPD. Only propane gas tanks that have valve handles with three “lobes” (prongs) should be sold or refilled. Older tanks that have valve handles with five prongs are not safe.
Older LP tank and gas grill standards require:
- A device to limit the flow of gas if the hose ruptures;
- A mechanism to shut off the grill if it overheats
- A device to stop the flow of gas if the connection between the tank and grill is not leak-proofed.
If any of these devices are missing or faulty on a grill or LP gas tank, an issue of liability arises after a fire or injury. An LP gas distributor should no longer use or distribute outdated tanks and should be responsible for the quality of any retrofitting work it has done.
Contact Our New York State Gas Can / Gas Tank Explosion Attorneys
If you have experienced a gas can or LP gas tank fire or explosion that has caused injury or significant property damage, you may be able to seek compensation from a manufacturer or distributor responsible for a faulty consumer product. An independent investigation that goes further than the inquiry that the local fire department or police are likely to conduct can help you to determine how the accident occurred and who may be liable for it.
The experienced product liability attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, can help you. Contact us today to discuss your case in a free initial consultation.
Sources / More Information
- Gasoline Safety, American Burn Association – Gasoline Safety
- Fire Hazard from Filling Portable Gas Cans in Pickup Trucks and Cars, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
- Warning: Scientists Say Gas Cans Carry Risk of Explosion, NBC News
- ASTM 15.10 Task Group on Flame Arresters for Gasoline Containers, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Grill Fires, U.S. Fire Administration
- Propane Safety, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- Propane Cylinder Overfilling Prevention Devices, NFPA