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Safety at the Gas Pumps

Safety at the Gas Pumps

I grew up listening to stories from my grandfather talk about “the good old days”. He would tell us stories about his childhood, how he met my grandmother, and his time in the army. I can remember him telling me how the gas stations used to be called “Service Stations” meaning there would be a young man who would come out to your car to fill your car with gas. While your car was being pumped, he would wash the front and back windows of your car, check your oil and accept your payment for the gas. You never had to get out of the car and pump your own gas.

On January 1st 2016 New Jersey became the last state where it’s illegal to pump your own gas. Prior to January 1st 2016, residents in Oregon couldn’t fill their own gas either. New Jersey states that the reason for the self-serve ban is because:

“…It is in the public interest that gasoline station operators have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance with appropriate safety procedures, including turning off vehicle engines and refraining from smoking while fuel is dispensed.”

While pumping your own gas can be dangerous, if you prefer the self-serve method and don’t live in New Jersey, there are some simple safety guidelines to keep you perfectly safe at the pump.

Turn Off Your Car
As with many of these safety tips, fuel vapers are what pose the real danger, especially when your car is running. If a spark from your car contacts fuel vapors at the station than you could be in real danger.

The most common way a car emits sparks is from the exhaust pipe due to old worn out spark plugs.

As a safety preventive measure, it’s good practice to have your spark plugs looked at every time you change your oil.

Use Your Emergency Brake
Its always a good idea to put your emergency brake on when you go into the store to pay for the gas or buy a drink so that your car doesn’t roll away. Additionally, should someone try to steel your car, or your kids start playing in the front seat, it will make it harder for the car to go anywhere with the emergency brake on.

Just check out this video of a guy who forgot to put his car in park.

Don’t Get Back Into Your Car
This may be hard to do in colder weather, but the number of fires at gas stations due to static is on the rise all over the country. According to Steve Fowler, a static electricity expert, “Most of these fires are caused by drivers who get back into their cars while the gas is still pumping. By getting into their seats, they are building up static electricity.”

When you get back into the car, your body builds up static from rubbing on the seat, clothing or carpet of the car. Once the gas is done pumping and you reach for the gas nozzle the static that your body has built up could cause a spark that may ignite a fire from the fuel vapers around the nozzle.

A good safety practice to prevent static fires is to touch the door of your car with your fingers to get rid of your static.

** Should a static fire start while you are at the gas pump, do not remove the nozzle from the car, rather focus on getting any passengers out of the car and to safety. Then seek help and call 911.

Don’t Ever Smoke
Never ever smoke while pumping gas! Not only is smoking bad for your health but smoking while pumping your gas is a much greater risk of starting a fire than static.

Look how serious this gas station attendant reacted to someone smoking while pumping their gas!

Look Before you Drive Away
When you’re done pumping your gas, be sure to double check that you:
1- Removed gas nozzle from your car,
2- screwed on the gas cap,
3- and shut the gas cover door

Have you ever seen a car driving down the road with their gas cover door open, gas cap off or even part of the gas pump still stuck inside their car? I have, and while it is embarrassing, it’s also dangerous. Always ensure that you remove the nozzle and cover the gas tank to prevent any gas spills.

Keep Gas Off Your Skin and Out of Your Eyes
According to the CDC, prolonged contact with gasoline and its vapors can cause skin, eyes and lung inflammation. If you do get gas on your skin or in your eyes, quickly wash your hands with soap and running water. For your eyes, run cool water on them for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes or until the burning and irritation stops.

Watch this video that explains what to do if you get gas or other chemical products in your eyes.
Washing your eyes video

Keep Kids in the Car
There are several safety reasons why you should keep your kids in the car when fueling up your car. A gas station can be a busy place with cars constantly coming and going. A driver may not see them as they are turning into the pumping area and may hit them.

Additionally, you do not want your kids to get gas in their eyes…This happened to me when I was about 7 years old. I got out of the car when my dad was putting gas in the car. When he was not looking, I went up to the gas nozzle to have a look. Just as approached, the car tank filled and the nozzle popped to stop but also squirted out a good amount of gas directly into my eyes!

Hearing my screams, my dad quickly scooped me up and ran into the gas station’s restroom where he worked for what seemed like forever to flush out my eye completely with water.

Keep your kids in the car and away from the gas pumps to best assure their safety.

My wife is always nervous about using her cell phone in the car at a gas station. This was recently discovered to be just a myth. The only hazards of phones at gas stations is the static they may have clinging to them that we discussed earlier.

Pumping your gas should not cause stress over the possible dangerous. However, being alert to the hazards and making common sense safety practices a habit will help you and your family stay safe.