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Gas-pump mishaps are rare but dangerous

At a local gas station, a gas hose nozzle left in the car is broken off when the driver forgot about it and drove off. The broken hose whips around, spraying gasoline on everything in its path. The driver quickly gets out of his car and reaches for the hose to control it, but not before his shirt and face have been doused with gasoline.

He is standing in a large puddle of gasoline, temporarily blinded, in pain, and his clothing is saturated with gasoline.You may never see the above event during the course of a lifetime of driving and using gas stations. And while this represents a rare event, it does happen. Nevertheless, it is and can be a dangerous experience as well as a frightening one.

What to do

Tell the driver you will help him. Ask the gas station attendant to turn off the gasoline pump and call the emergency telephone number.

Immediately irrigate the driver's eyes. A faucet should be nearby. Tell him to remove clothing that was splashed with gasoline to prevent skin exposure and inhalation of the gasoline fumes.

Use a gentle flow and have him kneel under it. Tell him to turn his head to either side every few minutes while the water flushes across both eyes. Then rinse his head and chest, making sure that the gasoline in his hair doesn't wash down in to his eyes.

Irrigate his eyes with water for up to 20 minutes (or until the ambulance arrives). During the irrigation you could ask: Did you swallow any gasoline? Is your throat sore? Do your nostrils burn? A positive answer could mean that the victim swallowed some gasoline or inhaled fumes.

When gasoline is splashed in the eyes, it may cause corneal abrasion and conjunctival irrigation. Skin contact can provoke a dermatitis (red patches on the skin) or a burn if the contact is prolonged.

The danger of gasoline vapors igniting by a spark is real. The gas station attendant has probably been instructed about what to do about the spilled gasoline. The fire department responding with both an ambulance and fire engine is wise because of the potential for an explosion and fire.