Safety Tips for Portable Fuel Tank Storage

Portable Fuel Tanks Are Convenient but There Are Safety Risks and Many Requirements

Portable fuel tanks are commonly used by contractors on construction job sites.  They provide easy access, convenience, and because they increase efficiency, they help projects stay on schedule.

While on-site portable fuel tanks are a convenient option, there are specific legal and regulatory requirements that must be followed regarding portable fuel tank storage and fuel transfer on construction sites.  Fire risks increase significantly with incorrect safety measures relating to portable fuel tanks and the storage and transfer of fuel, which could result in property damage, worker injury, or even fatalities.

12 Tips for Portable Fuel Tanks and Fuel Storage

Follow these tips for onsite portable fuel tank safety. These are the key tips and guidelines but be sure to read all the OSHA requirements as there are many considerations to be aware of.

Here Are Some Top Safety Tips:

Tip 1: Only approved containers and portable fuel tanks specifically designed for the type of fuel in use can be used to store flammable liquids. Plastic containers are highly discouraged since they typically do not meet the requirements of a “safety can”.

Tip 2:  Portable fuel tanks need to be a minimum of 20 feet from any building. 

Tip 3: Two or more portable fuel tanks in a grouping with a combined capacity of 2,200 over gallons need to be separated by a 5-foot-clear area.  Individual portable tanks exceeding 1,100 gallons shall be separated by a 5-foot-clear area.

Tip 4: Portable fuel tanks must be protected from a potential vehicular or mobile equipment strike. This may be (and typically is) accomplished by placing plastic “Jersey” barriers around the tank. Concrete barriers are best, but if plastic ones are going to be used, they need to be filled with water.

Tip 5:  Specific signage needs to be posted on the tank in a conspicuous location. A contents sticker noting, “Deisel Fuel, “Kerosene”, etc. is required. Also, large National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) diamond placard(s) must be posted, so that fire department personnel can clearly assess the situation and the flammable materials involved from afar.

Tip 6: Storage tanks also have to be marked with a six-inch high, legible sign saying “FLAMMABLE – KEEP FIRE AND FLAME AWAY”. This is a requirement by law and if it’s not labeled, you will be liable for any damages.

Tip 7: Visible “No Smoking” signs must be clearly posted and legible.  There should be absolutely no smoking or open flames near any fuel anywhere on a job site. This includes areas where fuel is received or dispensed. 

Tip 8: A fire extinguisher, rated not less than 10B, must be provided within 50 feet of fuel tanks or containers with a capacity of 5 or more gallons of flammable or combustible liquid or 5 pounds or more of flammable gas. The fire extinguisher needs to be placed not closer than 25 feet but no further than 75 feet from the fuel tank. This does not apply to the integral fuel tanks of motor vehicles.

Tip 9: If a fuel tank is not double walled or provided with a basin tank in case of tank failure, a spill kit needs to be provided in a conspicuous location. If the tank is double walled, it needs to be clearly identified (typically on a badge provided on the tank by the manufacturer). If a basin tank is provided, the plugs must always remain installed. Contractor crews often remove the plugs since rain will eventually fill the basin, but the plugs need to be maintained and water occasionally pumped out.

Tip 10: Portable fuel tanks located near a running engine or exhaust system need to be protected from any heat radiating from those sources.

Tip 11: Transfer of flammable liquids from one storage container to another must only be done when containers are electrically interconnected. This rule only applies to the direct transfer of flammable and combustible liquids between storage containers, and not for refueling or final use.

Tip 12: If portable fuel tank containers are located in an enclosed area, that space needs to be well ventilated to prevent a buildup of fumes.

Don’t Take the Risk of a Potential Worker Injury

Portable fuel tanks have definite efficiency benefits which is why they are commonly used on many job sites.  The potential for a serious or even deadly accident is present wherever these tanks are utilized. It’s important to know the OSHA safety guidelines for portable fuel tanks and fuel transfer.

Compliance Consultants, Inc. can help you assess your safety needs regarding the use and safety of portable fuel tanks on your job site. 

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