Power Play: Oklahoma-based gas can maker seeks federal regulation
Blitz USA, based in Miami, OK, manufactures 75 percent of all gasoline containers sold in the United States. The company has said its operations are in jeopardy without federal safety regulations that would protect it from lawsuits.
While most companies and industries are asking federal regulators to butt out of their business, Miami, OK-based Blitz USA is begging Congress to establish safety rules for the gas can industry.
“The regulations would afford us legal protection,” Blitz spokeswoman Amanda Emerson said Thursday. “We are aware that it is ironic that we're seeking more regulation. It's not because we need help producing quality products. It's for the protection that it would provide us in litigation.”
In business since 1966, Blitz makes 75 percent of the 13 million to 15 million gasoline containers sold in the United States each year. The containers are all manufactured at Blitz's northeast Oklahoma headquarters.
The company employed about 300 people until November, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It now has about 120 employees.
Blitz filed for bankruptcy protection because it faced more than 40 lawsuits by people who were using gasoline to start or accelerate a fire, Emerson said.
“A design defect is alleged, but there is no way to design a gas can that makes it safe to pour gasoline on a fire,” Emerson said.
Every container has a warning label that states it should not be used for starting or accelerating fires.
Emerson said the company follows voluntary safety standards established by the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association and the American Society for Testing and Materials, but the guidelines provide limited legal support since they are not set or overseen by government regulators.
“This isn't just about Blitz,” Emerson said. “The industry has embraced all proven means of developing our products safely. Unfortunately, that hasn't been enough to stem the tide of lawsuits. The regulations are necessary to protect our industry.”