OSHA Gas Can Regulations

Red Gas Can
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Construction companies, landscaping businesses and other businesses that frequently rely on gas-powered equipment or generators often need to use gas cans to fill this equipment since you can't exactly take these items to the service station. Unfortunately, getting a gas can used for a business isn't as easy as hitting your local gas station or big-box store and grabbing the cheapest can you can find. Instead, gas cans used for work must meet OSHA portable fuel container regulations in order to reduce the risk of fire and inhalation of dangerous gas fumes.

Using OSHA-Approved Gas Cans

OSHA regulations for gas can storage and handling state that "only approved containers and portable tanks shall be used." Regulations go on to state that when it comes to the handling and use of flammable liquids in quantities of 5 gallons or less, only "approved safety cans or Department of Transportation (DOT) approved containers shall be used." This is important because most gas containers sold at gas stations and mass merchandisers do not meet these requirements.

What Gas Cans Are Approved?

OSHA-approved gas cans are called "safety cans" and must be a closed container that:

  • Holds less than 5 gallons
  • Has a flash-arresting screen
  • Uses a spring-closing lid
  • Contains a spout cover
  • Is designed to safely relieve the pressure inside when it is subjected to exposure from a fire
  • Has been approved by either a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as the Underwriters' Laboratory, Inc. or CSA Group Testing and Certification, Inc., or meets the requirement for DOT-approved containers for flammable liquids

Where Things Get Confusing

There are a lot of agencies that have defined standards regarding gas can safety, but only some of these meet the requirements for OSHA-approved gas cans. When shopping for gas cans, you may see some that say they meet the Environmental Protection Agency, Air Quality Management District or California Air Resources Board spill-proof regulations for specific states.

Do not buy these gas cans for business purposes, though, unless they also state that they have DOT approval because none of these regulatory agencies have the same regulations for gas cans as OSHA.

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories

You can also look for products that have been approved by nationally recognized testing laboratories. You can find a list of accepted laboratories and those that are no longer recognized on OSHA's website.

Confusingly, you can't just find something with the mark of one of these laboratories, as products may be categorized as either "listed" or "classified." Approved products must say "listed" and not "classified" in order to meet OSHA regulations. For example, products that bear UL Classified markings are not acceptable, but those that have the UL Listed mark are OK.

That's because classified products have only been evaluated for a limited number of hazards, suitability in certain conditions or specific properties. On the other hand, listed products have been tested to meet all required standards.

A Note About UL Listings

To make things even more confusing, while most nationally recognized testing laboratories only list gas cans that have a flash-arresting screen, UL does not have this requirement as part of their approval standards, so you can only use a UL listed gas can as long as it also has a flash-arresting screen. To make things more simple, you might just stick with DOT-approved cans, which automatically meet all OSHA requirements.

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