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FACEValue: Mechanic burned after gasoline ignites

NIOSH's Fatality Assesment and Control Evaluations Reports
Date of incident: April 26, 2011

A 47-year-old auto mechanic died when gasoline he was pouring into a motor vehicle ignited and burned him. The victim had worked at the auto shop for two years. His employer did not have a written safety program, Injury and Illness Prevention Program, or job training program that provided safety training to employees. (The shop owner stated that he held undocumented, informal weekly safety training sessions.) On the day of the incident, the victim had replaced a gasoline tank on the vehicle and was using a bucket to pour gasoline into the new fuel tank, which did not have the filler hose installed. The fuel spilled onto an incandescent drop light under the vehicle and ignited. The victim ran from the vehicle with the bucket of fuel, leaving a trail of spilled gasoline that quickly caught fire and caused the bucket of fuel to ignite, burning 95 percent of the victim’s body. The shop owner saturated the victim in motor oil, incorrectly believing the oil would help reduce the severity of the burns. The local fire department treated the victim at the scene and then transported him to a local hospital, where he died the next day from his injuries.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Sources of ignition should be eliminated when work involves flammable liquids. If illumination is absolutely required in proximity to a fueling operation, an explosion/ignition-proof or intrinsically safe drop light should be used. Intrinsically safe lights do not reach the temperatures or allow the sparking necessary for fuel ignition.
  • When refueling vehicles with a portable container, the container should be equipped with an automatic closing cap and flame arrester. An approved safety container equipped with an automatic closing cap and flame arrester prevents fuel from splashing out and flames from getting in.
  • Gasoline tanks need to be properly installed before refueling. The victim installed a new gasoline line tank in the vehicle but did not attach the filler hose from the tank to the vehicle. A filler hose is important to the refueling process because it provides a safe and direct route to the tank, where the likelihood of spillage would be minimal.

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