e85 ethanol Safety Concerns

As in the dispensing of petroleum-based fuels such as traditional gasoline or diesel, E85 should be handled with the highest level of safety in mind. Although E85 use may be lower in some pollutants, E85 fuel is poisonous and flammable. E85 should never be confused with beverage alcohol. Cigarettes and other open ignition sources should never be allowed in fueling areas.

In general, the same safety measures that apply to gasoline apply to E85. All employees and the vehicle drivers using an E85 fueling system should:

  • Know basic safety practices
  • Understand the purpose and content of your fuel site’s emergency action plan
  • Be familiar with signage and emergency equipment at that site including the emergency shut down button
  • Understand what emergency actions need to be taken in an accident.

At a minimum, your emergency action plan should include:

  • Identification of what incidents may trigger the action plan
  • Actions to take for specific events
  • Notification procedures
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Safety systems
  • Emergency event action items

Emergency telephone numbers should be posted at the fueling site, near all office telephones, and in adjoining facilities. These contacts should include, but may not be limited to:

  • #911 (emergency reminder)
  • Fire department
  • Emergency medical
  • Police
  • Maintenance contacts and equipment vendors
  • Contacts for the adjoining buildings and businesses

E85 has been determined to be a flammable liquid per the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, and should be handled accordingly.

The safety standards for handling E85 are the same as those for gasoline. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes 30 and 30-A pertain to refueling stations and the handling of motor fuels and other combustible liquids.

In the event of a fire at your fueling site:

  • Never attempt to disconnect the dispenser nozzle from the vehicle
  • Evacuate immediate area of the fire
  • Trigger the emergency shut down button; which should be located nearby.
  • Contact emergency personnel

For E85 fires, carbon dioxide, halon or dry chemical extinguishers marked B, C, BC, or ABC should be used.

For larger fires, water spray, fog or foam (AFFT/ATC) can be used. Only those who are adequately trained and equipped with proper protective equipment should attempt fire fighting.

Remember that fuel vapors can travel along the ground or be moved by ventilation and ignited by sources such as pilot lights, sparks, electric motors, static discharge, or other ignition sources at locations distant from material handling. For additional fire related information, see Codes & Standards.

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