Static Electricity and Safety

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R.Brown
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Static Electricity and Safety

Post by R.Brown » Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:38 pm

The following is an effort to bring awareness to the fact that life can change in an instant. Many times, it is doing something routine. Luckily in my case I am still here to talk about it. This is a story about the moment our lives changed forever, and what happened that fateful day. No matter if you deal with fuel or not... I would like everyone to read this, absorb it, then SHARE it to as many people as possible. Thanks, Ryan


One Moment
On December 7, 2016, I had an accident in my shop that put me in the hospital with third degree burns to my head, face and the left side of my upper torso. Quite the ride since then, with 40+ days in the hospital and too many surgeries to count.

Not looking for anything other than for whomever reads this to realize that life can change in an instant. I was pouring fuel (pump gas, which means gasoline that you would purchase at the local gas station pumps) from a plastic fuel jug thru a large plastic filtered funnel, into the dyno room fuel cell. Something I've done literally thousands of times over the last 18 years.

It was very cold (-15 F) and dry that night. All fuel jugs are kept outside, so I brought one into the dyno cell area and began pouring the fuel into the funnel. A minute or so in, and the fuel started to back up about 1/3 of the way up the funnel, and since I did not want to continue filling, I lifted the fuel jug off the funnel, and at that point, the explosion happened.

The theory is that the flowing fuel was building a static charge in the fuel jug and (since the jug was resting on it) the funnel. When I lifted the jug off the funnel, there was a static discharge. The vapor atop the fuel in the funnel was in a combustible zone, and it ignited.

It is hard to convey just how instantaneous this is. You have ZERO time to react. I don’t think I can over state this fact. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

The next thing I knew, my face was on fire, and when I looked out, all I could see was flames seemingly on my eyeballs, and I could not breathe due to a lack of oxygen. Well, I could breathe a bit, but I could feel the extreme heat in my mouth from the flames on my face and my lips when starting to inhale, so I held my breath while exiting the shop and luckily found a snow bank to dive into head first, mouth open.

The rest is history, interior of the shop was ablaze, and once help arrived, I was flown to the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, AB.

Very well may have been the perfect storm here.... so many things had to line up for this to occur. Perhaps one in a billion.... Whatever the odds or conditions, our lives will never be the same and maybe by reading this, one of you may be spared similar misfortune.

It would be tens of thousands of gallons of fuel that was poured into that cell, using the same equipment. I was doing something that I felt was seemingly routine, but I am reminded every minute of each day that it was obviously not.

Moving forward, I’d like to compile a few points that I feel contributed to this. As I write this, it has been 13 months since it happened, and I have had many on topic conversations during that time regarding how to avoid the issue, and what can be learned from it.

1 – Do not let the fuel can contact the lip of the funnel. But taking this one step forward… (insight from local Karting club CKRC manager Fred Causer) if using a plastic fuel jug, use a metal funnel, and vice versa. This was something Fred learned in his military background with the Royal Air Force.

2 – I always strive for clean fuel, and once you use a funnel with a fine filter screen, you can see how dirty the inside of fuel jugs can be. The fuel was stored outside, and because it was well below freezing, whatever condensation that was in the pump gas was frozen. As I was pouring the fuel into the funnel, this slush was plugging up the filter… slowing down the flow of fuel, causing the fuel to back up. I am confident that if the funnel I was using was not filtered, this would not have happened. The fuel would have been out of the funnel when the jug was lifted off, therefore the vapor would not have been in a combustible zone when the discharge happened. In fact, I strongly believe that this discharge happens far more frequently than we realize… the difference is that without something slowing the flow of fuel thru the funnel, the fuel is usually long gone. I’m not entirely sure how I will be keeping the fuel cell clean (lack of a filter in the funnel) in the future.

3 – One good thing was I had on my trusty Mechanix Wear gloves, and my hands were unscathed. I would however recommend wearing some sort of clear face shield, if even to keep any errant splashes out of the eyes.

4 – When pouring fuel, keeping the sloshing down to a minimum will reduce vapor

5 – Grounding cables. This is the most obvious improvement to be made. Would be nice if the fuel jug companies gave us some material on the jug to attach permanent grounding cables, maybe some do? I’ve looked over mine and they don’t. Coupling the jug to the funnel, then to the cell. Do we need a grounding rod also? I get vastly different suggestions from different professionals I have talked to in that field.

Additional and constructive comments are welcome here! I am usually the one in the group who is looking for the dangers and taking steps to avoid them. I missed the boat here. I do feel that getting the word out to as many people as possible… giving them a slight bit of insight into how life can change in an instant, may save someone, somewhere. I am notably scarred for life… more surgeries are in the near future, and laser treatments for years to come. I went to physio 5 days a week for 10 months… and one day while walking up a long hill towards the rehab gym I was lamenting in the thought that all of this has happened, life has been turned upside down… for a split second lapse… just one moment. Oh, how I wish I could have that moment back.

Be safe,

Ryan Brown

rbperf at hotmail.com

If you do Facebook, go to this link and share please:
https://www.facebook.com/RyanBrownPerfo ... 3851986335

tresi
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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by tresi » Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:45 am

Sorry about your accident. I have seen transferring fuel cause a static discharge. Every time I seen this was in the winter. The times that I witnessed this was when an aircraft needed defueled but the tanker truck was full and fuel needed to be transferred back to the underground storage tank from the tanker truck. Even though the truck and nozzle was ground the falling column of fuel in the tank would cause discharges between the column of fuel and the surface of fuel in the tank. The overly rich air/fuel mixture and that the fuel was JP4 kept the vapor from igniting it was quite scary to see. I'm sure there are better methods to defuel a fuel truck but that was what this facility had. Hope that you continue to improve. I'm sure you have some lasting effects from your injuries.

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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by exhaustgases » Sun Feb 04, 2018 5:54 am

I think I remember your story awhile back. I've always been conscience about static while fueling and since the first time I read your story ??? I think it was you. I am way more aware now. If using a funnel always make sure the can spout is in contact, and make sure to touch what your fueling as well.
When filling the can at the gas station I sit the can or plastic can on the ground and make sure it touches the metal of the pump, and make sure the spout always touches the can being filled. Never ever just have the stream of gas flowing with the spout not touching the container.

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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by j-c-c » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:39 am

Ryan, thank you for sharing.
That sounds life changing certainly.
I will reread it a third time.
I have done nearly the same thing myself hundreds of time, always concerned, and now in retrospect, very lucky.
You have certainly been thru an ordeal, I'm sure your experience will help somebody else, I hope at least its me.
The "grounding" between pouring plastic jugs/funnels seems to be the hardest part.

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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by R.Brown » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:47 pm

tresi wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:45 am
Sorry about your accident. I have seen transferring fuel cause a static discharge. Every time I seen this was in the winter. The times that I witnessed this was when an aircraft needed defueled but the tanker truck was full and fuel needed to be transferred back to the underground storage tank from the tanker truck. Even though the truck and nozzle was ground the falling column of fuel in the tank would cause discharges between the column of fuel and the surface of fuel in the tank. The overly rich air/fuel mixture and that the fuel was JP4 kept the vapor from igniting it was quite scary to see. I'm sure there are better methods to defuel a fuel truck but that was what this facility had. Hope that you continue to improve. I'm sure you have some lasting effects from your injuries.
thanks for the well wishes! Wow... that is quite a story. Can't imagine what that would look like!!!

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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by R.Brown » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:49 pm

exhaustgases wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 5:54 am
I think I remember your story awhile back. I've always been conscience about static while fueling and since the first time I read your story ??? I think it was you. I am way more aware now. If using a funnel always make sure the can spout is in contact, and make sure to touch what your fueling as well.
When filling the can at the gas station I sit the can or plastic can on the ground and make sure it touches the metal of the pump, and make sure the spout always touches the can being filled. Never ever just have the stream of gas flowing with the spout not touching the container.
Glad to hear it has brought more awareness!

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Re: Static Electricity and Safety

Post by R.Brown » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:52 pm

j-c-c wrote:
Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:39 am
Ryan, thank you for sharing.
That sounds life changing certainly.
I will reread it a third time.
I have done nearly the same thing myself hundreds of time, always concerned, and now in retrospect, very lucky.
You have certainly been thru an ordeal, I'm sure your experience will help somebody else, I hope at least its me.
The "grounding" between pouring plastic jugs/funnels seems to be the hardest part.
=D>

Over my time in this industry, I have been to more than 50 dyno cells in operation, and I have never seen anyone do anything different than what I was doing. That does not justify my ignorance to the topic, rather it enforces need for this information to get out there.

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