Repairing, repurposing, disposing of tanks and drums

Tips about what to consider before working on or disposing of tanks and drums.


Are you thinking about

  • Repairing, repurposing or disposing of tanks or drums (eg fuel tanks, 200 litre drums, gas cylinders)
  • Clearing unwanted tanks or drums from a property as part of a land sale.

If you are, think about these questions before taking any action:

  • Do you know what the tank or drum been used for?
  • Did it contain a flammable or combustible liquid, like diesel, or petrol?
  • Did it contain a chemical, such as a cleaning agent, a pesticide or herbicide?
  • Is there a hazard label on the tank or drum?

If you do not know the answer to any of the above questions, do not apply an ignition source (eg heat, spark or flame), dispose, reuse or sell the tank or drum.

Figure 1: Above ground fuel tank that is rusted and missing labels.

Common mistakes

Some people wrongly think that:

  • Cutting a tank or drum filled with water could prevent an explosion
  • Filling a tank or drum with carbon monoxide could prevent it from exploding
  • A tank or drum could be cleaned by rinsing it out with diesel


Using tools like angle grinders, drills, and welders to work on tanks or drums can result in explosions causing serious burns or even death.

  • Flammable or combustible liquids can still be present in old tanks and drums.
  • The contents of the tank or drum may ignite.
  • Residue can stick to the inside of the tank or drum, even if they have been rinsed, and the introduction of an ignition source with residue fuel or chemicals can create an explosion.
  • Tanks and drums that have been empty for a very long time can contain enough residue to explode and/or emit hazardous vapour when exposed to heat.

Never cut, weld, pressurise, solder, drill or grind fuel tanks, or expose fuel tanks or drums to heat, flame, sparks or other sources of ignition.

Tanks and drums should stay labelled until cleaned

Tanks and drums which have not been cleaned of dangerous goods must retain the labelling that properly identifies the residual hazard. When the container is cleaned, the labelling should be removed.

Illustration of 2 fuel tanks properly labelled with Diesel, Combustible liquid and warning labels.
Figure 2: Example of tanks with clear labels identifying the contents.

On-selling obligations

When selling or decommissioning tanks or drums that have been used in connection with dangerous goods, occupiers of premises must have the tanks or drums cleared of the dangerous goods or hazardous substance. This includes disposal of tanks to a waste facility or on selling in a clearance sale.

Get help

Contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service or email a dangerous goods expert [email protected].

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options

Apply for the OHS Essentials program

Get free, confidential and personalised safety support from an agricultural industry expert at a time that suits you.

OHS Essentials program

Others who may be able to provide advice are your local Council, your fuel supplier, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, and companies that specialise in the decommissioning of fuel tanks.

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