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Dangers Of Flashback Fuel Explosions: What You Need To Know
Atom Alloys
September 28, 2021
3 Mins Read Time

Flashback fuel explosions occurring in portable fuel cans causing serious burns or deaths were responsible for more than 80 lawsuits filed in the US alone in the recent past.  Why do these incidents happen? Are they preventable?

Risks associated with fuel vapors 

Unless inerted, the empty space in any fuel container is occupied by fuel vapor which is a greater hazard than liquid flammable fuels. The higher flammability of fuel vapors makes half-empty fuel cans containing less fuel more likely to catch fire or explode.

Even the slightest spark can ignite flammable fuel vapors when they are mixed with air in the right amount. That’s why even a simple act of pouring fuel into a generator can prove dangerous if one isn’t careful enough. 

Keep in mind that an ignition source can be an open flame, sparks, a lighted cigarette, or even a static charge – all of which can have the same effect as pouring fuel on an open flame. 

The science behind Flashback Fuel Explosions

Open fuel containers can leak vapors. Inside buildings or areas with poor ventilation, these heavier-than-air and invisible vapors settle in low areas such as basements, pits, sewers etc. With any ignition, the flame flashes back (or follows the path) back to the source of the vapor, even if the source is hundreds of feet away or several stories away in a building.

What happens next?

The fire can raise the temperature towards deflagration and the pressure inside the container would steadily rise from subsonic to supersonic levels. If the can is not certified, tested, or protected against explosions, it will, by nature, explode. During the explosion, the container disintegrates, bursting outwards due to supersonic pressure converting the fragments of the container into shrapnel that can hurt and maim.

According to OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.152(a)(1),

“Only approved containers and portable tanks shall be used for storage and handling of flammable liquids. Approved safety cans or Department of Transportation approved containers shall be used for the handling and use of flammable liquids in quantities of 5 gallons or less, except that this shall not apply to those flammable liquid materials which are highly viscid (extremely hard to pour), which may be used and handled in original shipping containers. For quantities of one gallon or less, the original container may be used, for storage, use and handling of flammable liquids.”

ATOM’s CariSafe has been tested, certified, and approved, and was also the first to be granted the ‘Explosion Resistant’ verification by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Inside every ATOM fuel storage unit is an inbuilt passive explosion protection module that prevents the deflagration from rising to detonation in the event of a fire. Through such prevention, ATOM enables your fire mitigation solutions to have more time to be effective and not be interrupted by a catastrophic explosion. 

Prevent the first spark of fire from escalating to an explosion with ATOM 

ATOM is an internationally certified patented Explosion Prevention system that works across industries to deliver safety solutions for fuel storage, transportation and delivery. If you are seeking preventive solutions tailored to meet the industry’s complexities that secure your workplace and resources from fuel tank explosions, we can introduce you to high-quality solutions that are compliant with international regulation standards and will upgrade your fuel safety to the highest levels. To secure your fuel storage from explosion, get in touch with us today!

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