Refueling Equipment

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We use fuel sources every day in turf maintenance to operate all kinds of vehicles and equipment. And while most of us understand that fuel is flammable (surprise, surprise), and requires special care when using, this doesn’t mean that we inherently know the right way to handle, store, and transport fuel in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the mishandling of fuel can cause extensive, and costly, damage to equipment, vehicles, and property, not to mention severe injury or even death to you or those around you.

These facts make it vital that each worker on the turf understand and observe all safety measures when it comes to handling fuel in the workplace.

Fuel handling tips


Since fuel is designed to be flammable, it’s critical that it doesn’t come into contact with any type of open flame or heat source, including cigarette lighters. In fact, even cigarette smoke near fuel can be dangerous, because the heat from the cigarette can light the air around you with fuel vapor floating around the shop. Due to this, it’s critical that no one ever smoke while refueling, when transporting fuel, or when close to where fuel is stored.

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DOT-approved containers

OSHA requires employers to store fuel in DOT (Department of Transportation)-approved containers. Workers should only use containers that have the DOT-approved stickers or that have been approved by their superintendent. DOT-approved fuel cans must meet certain safety standards, such as child-resistant caps and spring-loaded lids, which can reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace.

Each worker is also responsible to check to make sure the caps and seals on the container are working properly and to report any issues to a supervisor. Using proper DOT-approved containers to store fuel can prevent leaks, which could cause a fire hazard or environmental threat in short time.

Refueling tips

Special care is also needed when refueling equipment or filling a fuel container. Follow these tips when refueling:

• Don’t fill containers the whole way

While many DOT-approved fuel containers hold up to 5 gallons of fuel, never fill the container to more than 95 percent of its maximum capacity. This step will reduce the risks of spills during the refueling process.

• Shut off the engine

You should never refuel equipment or vehicles with the engine still running. Failure to shut the engine down can pose a significant risk, because if the fuel spills on the engine, it can cause the fuel to ignite. Always turn the engine off and give the equipment time to cool down before refueling.

• Fill containers on the ground

Whether refueling equipment or filling a fuel container, always complete this process in a well-ventilated location. And when filling any container, you should first place the container on the ground. Never fill the fuel can while it’s on top of or near equipment, because this could cause static electricity to build up and start a fire. Also, make sure that the nozzle is always connected to the container throughout the filling process.

Reduce risk of static electricity

Static electricity poses a significant risk when refueling or filling a fuel container. The problem is that when static electricity builds up, it can create a spark. Since fuel is extremely flammable, even a small spark can lead to a fire or explosion. To reduce the risk of static electricity, start the refueling process by touching a piece of metal on the equipment or vehicle. Contact with the metal will help to discharge any static electricity on your body and reduce the risk of fire.

In case of fire

Even with all the safety tips in place, there is always a risk of accidental fire when working with fuel. Your organization will train you on how to handle these types of situations. The most important step to remember is to leave the nozzle in the neck of the fuel tank even if a fire erupts. Trying to remove the nozzle during a fire not only poses a significant risk to the workers involved, but it can make the fire worse. Instead, you should immediately back away from the fire and call for help.

Gas can/fuel transport tips

Before transporting any fuel can or other container, ensure that:

  • fuel cans are not filled to more than 95 percent of capacity
  • all caps are secure and tightly closed
  • and all containers are clearly labeled

When storing gas cans, it’s essential to keep them away from machinery and high traffic areas. Fuel cans also should not be stored on or near any stairways or in any exit areas.

OSHA requires employers storing more than 25 gallons of fuel to place gas cans in a specially designated and fire-retardant cabinet. Also, employers cannot store more than 60 gallons of fuel at one time.

And not only must all gas cans be DOT approved, but employers should mark all fuel containers so employees can quickly identify them.


The most effective way to create a safe workplace is to promote preventive refueling policies and to ensure all employees receive proper training. But in the end, it’s your responsibility for following all safety regulations and guidelines. 

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