Race Car Fuel Dispenser Operator belted down when Methanol Tank Exploded

A 49-year-old male auto dealer/ buyer working as a race car fuel dispenser, died from injuries received when a methanol tank at an automobile racetrack exploded in the fuel building. The wooden fuel building was constructed of sheet plywood supported by 4- by 4-inch and 2- by 4-inch wood supports. The fuel building housed both the pit concessions and the fuel storage and dispensing area. The decedent had filled several plastic fuel containers for the racers at the racetrack. It is unclear if he was filling another container, or was transferring methanol from a 55-gallon drum to a 1,000-gallon methanol holding tank when the explosion occurred. Although on fire, he was able to exit from the burning building. A racecar driver who was also a firefighter wrapped a shirt around the decedent’s face and pulled him away from the burning building. Emergency response personnel who were already on site provided medical assistance and transport to a local hospital. He sustained burns over 80 percent of his body. He died the next day at the hospital. Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) personnel found that there were no grounding straps used and that the wiring was not rated for the area.

  • Racetrack owners should ensure that flammable material use and storage is in compliance with applicable safety standards and NFPA recommendations.
  • Racetrack owners should train employees who dispense/transfer racing fuel to do so in a manner that will minimize the production of static electricity.
  • Racetrack owners should develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive health and safety program that includes, a job hazard analysis and employee training in hazard recognition and avoidance. The safety program should include provisions for fuel distribution personal to use fire rated clothing.
  • Racetrack owners should contact MIOSHA Consultation, Education and Training (CET) or other safety and health professional to conduct an inspection of the racetrack to identify potential hazards and racetrack compliance with applicable health and safety laws.
  • Racetrack owners should comply with NFPA 610, Guide for Emergency Response and Safety at Motorsports Venues standard.
  • Racetrack owners should contact their local jurisdiction’s building inspector to review any changes in existing building use.