There are many safety precautions associated with planes and flying. One that might not necessarily be the most talked or written about has to do with static electricity and fueling up a plane.
Kind of a strange hazard if you’ve never heard about it, but it is a highly dangerous problem if you’re not using proper procedures.
If you’re not sure exactly what this situation is, think of it this way: In the winter when you walk on a rug in your socks and touch someone you get shocked. The same idea holds true when a plane flies through the air, only the static build up is enormous compared to your socks and the carpet. So when the plane lands, if that static charge isn’t dissipated, fueling up can result in an explosion or huge fire.
Pretty scary, huh?
This dangerous situation simply means it’s very important you know how to avoid a potentially catastrophic incident by dissipating the static electricity and using bonded or grounded equipment.
It can literally be life-or-death knowledge.
According to an article from the National Fire Protection Association, it’s important that all piping, tanks, valves, and dispensing equipment are bonded at all times so any non-current-carrying metal parts can ground.
Where a huge potential danger exists is within the fuel-dispensing hose and nozzle. Fuel moving through a hose creates static electricity, meaning the risk of a static electricity discharge is at its peak “when the nozzle is being removed from the tank,” according to the article.
To ensure all of your equipment—pumps, hoses, nozzles—is safe, it must be Underwriters Listed (UL) for usage. This listing gives you peace of mind that the hoses and nozzles you are using provide that continuous bond “from shore side equipment to the tank being filled, which allows static electricity to flow to ground.”
So, make sure all your fueling equipment is bonded and if the equipment isn’t on the UL list, attach a bonding wire to the nozzle and the tank you’re filling.
Pumping From a Truck
The NFPA states pumping from a truck means you must attach a bonding wire when flammable liquids are filling up a tank. The bonding wire provides a continuous path to ground from the tank because trucks are insulated by the rubber on their tires.
“The length of time required for a static electricity to dissipate varies,” according to the article, so a spark can happen if the bonding wire is removed before the static electricity totally dissipates.
What this means is, if you ground the truck and correctly bond to the tank you are filling, it negates the dangers. The NFPA also recommends allowing a few minutes before you remove the nozzle after you’re done pumping. This ensures that the static electricity is gone.
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