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Refuelling farm machinery safely

Tractors, combines and grain trucks are just a few of the machines farmers rely on to get the job done. These machines need fuel and farm workers find themselves refueling machinery so often that it’s easy to become complacent. Both gasoline and diesel are extremely flammable and can cause explosions, so it’s important to pay attention and make sure proper refueling procedures are followed.

When refueling, the first step is always to use the right type of fuel. Double check machines to see whether they take diesel or gasoline; clearly and correctly label supplies of diesel and gasoline to avoid confusion.

It’s essential to ensure farm equipment is off and cooled before refueling. A spark from the ignition system or hot exhaust could ignite the fuel. If fuel spills on an engine, wipe away any excess and allow time for the fumes to dissipate. Always have your fueling station outside, in a well-ventilated area — never inside a building.

It’s important to be aware of any source that could cause a spark or static electricity. Grounding the machine with a ground wire or dropping mounted equipment reduces the risk of static electricity. Remain still while refueling. Walking around, entering and exiting the machinery could result in a static charge build-up. Electronic devices, including cellphones or MP3 players, can also cause static electricity and shouldn’t be used when refueling. Open flames are also dangerous — items like cigarettes and butane torches need to be kept away from designated refueling areas. Exposing fuel to sparks, static electricity and open flames could result in explosions and fire.

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), the only type of diesel fuel legally allowed for use in Canada (with the exception of railway and marine applications), poses a greater static ignition threat than gasoline or other types of diesel formerly used in farm machinery. ULSD lowers emissions and improves air quality but removing sulfur from the fuel increases its ability to store a static charge. It’s important to properly bond and ground all of your equipment (fuel supply tank, transfer pump, transfer hose, nozzle, etc) when using ULSD to eliminate the risk of a fire or explosion. Check with your fuel supplier to make sure your fuel delivery system is up to fueling standards.

Fire prevention is the goal when refueling. However, even when following all of these steps, be prepared for the unexpected. Always have an appropriate and fully functional fire extinguisher close by, so you can react quickly to eliminate the danger. Clean up fuel spills immediately, no matter how small, to reduce the impact on safety and on the environment.

While it’s easy to let your refueling routine slip, it’s important to remain alert and aware of the dangers of refueling. It only takes one misstep to cause a tragedy.

About the author

Contributor

As a national, non-profit organization, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) promotes farm safety in the agricultural sector.

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