Caltex safety reminder: The hazards of static electricity when refueling



Along with the refreshing drizzles of the rainy season come a number of unfortunate occurrences we can’t control. Though a lightning strike is little to fear and is less likely to hit the driving masses, Chevron Philippines Inc. (CPI), marketer of the Caltex brand of fuels and lubricants, prompts motorists of a different kind of electricity they should be aware of. Static electricity has been linked to trigger gasoline station fires in the world.

Here is a video from YouTube wherein the nozzle of the woman’s car catches fire while refueling:

We see in the video that while gassing up, the woman goes back to sit in the drivers seat. Friction with the car seat builds up the static electricity in her so when she reaches for the nozzle, there’s a discharge of static electricity igniting the fuel vapor. It’s a miracle she walked away unharmed.

Since 1992 the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) received almost 200 incident reports that appear to be caused by static electrical discharge. They found out that static electricity—the same thing that zaps you after you drag your feet on the carpet or rub your arms against a plastic chair—could ignite gasoline vapors at the pump.

The body voltage rises due to the electrostatic charge created through the friction with the car seats and carpet. If car passengers touch the vehicle door, the electrostatic discharge and shock will occur as their hand approaches the metal door. The electrostatic will discharge through the next thing the driver touches which may be surrounded by flammable vapor especially while refueling, if the voltage is not discharged through the car, like the fuel pump nozzle in the video.

Mike Gotardo, CPI Health, Environment and Safety Specialist for Asia Pacific, advises motorists “to always turn of engines when refueling, never re-enter vehicle while refueling, and never smoke while refueling. Caltex service stations have helpful attendants who do all the refueling for motorists. The golden rule is to leave the refueling to the professionals. ”

“If fuel must be handled, say to power up generators during brownouts, use only approved containers. Place the container on the ground. Remove plastic handles. Use bare hands so that you ground yourself.  Do not use rubber gloves and synthetic materials, such as nylon or polypropylene rope.  Do not remove clothing, such as jacket or sweater where flammable vapors might exist, as these might cause a static spark,” Gotardo adds.

CPI supports a culture of safety and environmental stewardship that strives to achieve world-class performance and prevent all incidents.