Due to recent reports concerning possible static electricity-related incidents at gas stations, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is providing safety tips for the public aimed at reducing their risk when filling up their vehicle.

Keep in mind these cases are very rare. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that each year there are an average of 11 billion fill-ups and very few fire incidents involving static electricity.

Static electricity can occur when a person filling their tank leaves the nozzle, gets back in their vehicle and rubs against the seats. When they return to the vehicle fill pipe when the refueling is complete, the built up static may discharge at the fill point, causing a brief flash fire with gasoline refueling vapors.

"There are several ways a person refueling their vehicle can avoid this from happening," ASSE President, and Houston, Texas, resident, Mark Hansen, P.E., C.S.P., says.

  • When you're putting gas in your car you should not get back into the vehicle because this can cause static electricity.
  • If you must get back in the car for some reason during the fueling process, you should always touch a metal part of the vehicle first, such as the door, or some other metal surface, away from the fill point when exiting the car and returning to the refueling area. This reduces the build-up of static electricity and minimizes the likelihood of a fire occurring.
  • For added safety, don't smoke, light matches or use lighters while refueling.
  • Use only the refueling latch provided on the gasoline dispenser nozzle - never jam the refueling latch on the nozzle open.
  • Turn off the vehicle engine while refueling.
  • Put your vehicle in park and/or set the emergency break.
  • Do not over fill or top-off your vehicle tank, which can cause gasoline spillage.

For more information contact API's Susan Hahn at (202) 682-8118 or check www.api.org or www.asse.org.