Most people are somewhat familiar with the portable red plastic gas cans which many people routinely use to fill their lawn mowers, snow blowers and other gas-operated machines. What many people may not know is that over the last 20 years, there have been about 80 product liability lawsuits after people who were handling the cans were seriously injured or killed when the cans exploded.

Montana residents may find it interesting to learn that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has requested that manufacturers of plastic gas canisters add flame arresters to the gas cans that they manufacture in order to make them safer for consumer use. Scientific tests conducted by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute indicate that when gas is poured from plastic gas containers under certain specified conditions, there is a high risk that a spark can ignite vapors, which can travel back through the spout and explode inside the can. This explosion can catastrophically cause serious injury or harm.

In fact, in the 80 product liability lawsuits so far, it was essentially argued that the plastic gas cans are defective, dangerous and susceptible to flashback explosions due to the lack of flame arresters. At least eleven deaths and nearly 1,200 ER visits have been reported since 1998. Most of the explosions occurred when a consumer was pouring out the gasoline.

According to the CPSC, the inclusion of flame arresters will prevent flashbacks. These are essentially mesh disks that cover the spout of the can. If vapor is ignited and starts to travel back down the spout into the canister, the mesh prevents that from happening by absorbing and then diffusing away the heat before it has a chance to ignite the gas vapors in the can.

An exploding gas can result in serious injury to the consumer. For anyone who has suffered harm due to a defective and dangerous product, he or she should consider the potential for legal action.

Source: NBC News, “Consumer panel calls for flame arresters on gas cans after NBC report,” Dec. 5, 2013