Why Are Safety Cans Different Colors?




Colors have been used as a tool to promote safety for decades. Industries around the world use color as a means to communicate potential hazards and dangers to those in the vicinity, and it is now common practice to coordinate the color of your safety can with liquid inside. Doing so prevents confusion and potential mix-ups when working with multiple flammable liquids and provides clarification for first responders in the event of an accident. First responders can better assess the potential dangers in an area by knowing what flammable liquids are or are not present in the area. Because of this, color-coding is a valuable safety feature and an effective means to keep people safe from the hazards associated with misusing certain fuels, including damage to property, injury, or death.

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Are Specific Safety Can Colors Required By Law?

The short answer? It depends on what liquid you are carrying and in which country you are. The regulations and standards we will cover in this piece are specific to the United States. In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that liquids with a flashpoint at or below 80 degrees F be stored in a red can with the necessary safety features. Flashpoint refers to the lowest possible temperature at which a chemical can vaporize and form an ignitable vapor mixture in the air. Liquids with a flashpoint at or below 80 degrees are considered highly flammable and more dangerous because of it: the lower the flashpoint, the more flammable the liquid. 

Other than red cans for highly flammable liquids, there are no mandates requiring chemicals to be stored in different colored cans. Yellow, green, and blue cans have become standard thanks to manufacturers looking to increase worker safety through better communication of the contents of the can.

Read Justrite's Guide to OSHA Violations for Safety Cans

OSHA Violations for Safety Cans Guide

Does Gasoline Require a Red Safety Can?

Red safety cans are required by OSHA for highly flammable liquids, and with a flashpoint of negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit, gasoline is extremely flammable and meets the criteria easily. Flammable liquids are also required to have a yellow band to label the container with the name of its contents. It is worth noting that these requirements only apply to commercial use, and personal use is more lenient. However, it is still best practice to use red safety cans for gasoline and an effective way to promote safe handling.

Red safety cans
Red Safety Cans

 


Does Diesel Require a Yellow Safety Can?

Yellow safety cans have become synonymous with diesel fuel. Due to a high flashpoint, the can color is not regulated by any governing bodies, but it has become standard practice in many workplaces throughout the United States.

Yellow safety cans
Yellow Safety Cans

 


Does Kerosene Require a Blue Safety Can?

Blue safety cans are used to distinguish cans holding kerosene. A common fuel in the aviation industry, Kerosene’s higher flashpoint means it is not required to be stored in a red can. Instead, blue has become the standard.

Blue safety cans
Blue Safety Cans

 


Does Oil Require a Green Safety Can?

Oil does not require a green safety can. As is the case with diesel and kerosene, it is a widely accepted industry standard and is recommended to avoid confusion when working. We also recommend clearly labeling oil cans with their specific contents. Oils can vary greatly, and the characteristics and composition of the oil within the can should be labeled clearly on the outside of the can to avoid any confusion concerning its contents. When you see a green can, you should always read the label rather than assume it is an oil with the exact composition you are looking for.

Green safety cans
Green Safety Cans

 


Safety Cans Around the World:

The laws and guidelines surrounding safety can colors are followed most closely in the United States. Regardless of location, you should never assume the contents of a safety can without receiving confirmation. The standards are not universal, and certain business places will use the colors to designate different chemicals, operating on a system specific to their workplace. Some other countries carry different standards entirely. For example, in the UK, green is commonly used for gasoline and black for diesel. To take the industry standards applied in the United States and assume they are in place in a specific setting without first confirming the standards could prove catastrophic. It is important that you are well acquainted with the regulations and practices specific to your location before proceeding.


DISCLAIMER:

Because of the complex nature of chemicals, Justrite cannot offer specific recommendations on chemical compatibility. Your chemical supplier, SDS sheets, or other expert sources should be consulted. This article is offered as a guide for convenience and is not a substitute for the user clearly understanding the nature and proper use of the chemicals.

To aid in your decision process to select the appropriate Justrite product for your application, contact Justrite Customer Service to obtain sample material parts for you to test with the chemical you are using. Justrite makes no guarantee of results and assumes no obligation or liability in connection with the use of these products and their application relative to their chemical compatibility. It is the end user’s sole responsibility to determine the nature of the materials to be contained and to select the proper product suitable for a particular application. Furthermore, it is the end user’s responsibility to ensure that the product selected is suitable for its intended use. JUSTRITE MAKES NO WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR PURPOSE, and assumes no liability in connection with any product made or sold by Justrite with regard to its use or chemical compatibility.


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