Propane, commonly referred to as liquefied petroleum gas, is often used to fuel forklifts. The substance is colorless, nontoxic, and virtually odorless, which may make it seem harmless. Yet, if propane safety measures are not followed, the consequences can be dire.
Safe handling of a forklift propane tank is a must. By teaching your workers about forklift propane tank safety, you can verify that all lift fuel containers are stored and maintained properly. Plus, you can comply with myriad forklift propane safety requirements.
Why Is Forklift Propane Tank Safety Important?
Propane is flammable, and as such, businesses that store, use, or transport propane must follow CGA (Compressed Gas Association) and OSHA safety guidelines. In doing so, these companies can limit the risk of propane explosions, spills, and other fuel-related accidents.
A Closer Look at CGA and OSHA Propane Safety Guidelines
CGA and OSHA propane safety guidelines can be classified into three categories:
To properly store propane, workers must:
✓ Limit the amount of propane stored in an industrial facility to 300 lbs.; in buildings with designated areas for propane storage, workers can store up to 10,000 lbs. of propane
✓ Avoid storing propane cylinders in high-traffic and busy areas, such as near stairways or exits
✓ Keep propane cylinders away from any flammable or combustible materials
✓ Store propane in cylinder safety cages or cabinets; propane cylinders must be kept off the ground and in flat areas where they cannot collect water
✓ Keep any propane cylinders that are not currently in use outside in an open air storage space or cage; these cylinders must be stored under a protective roof and remain a minimum of 20 ft. away from all buildings
✓ Keep propane tanks away from areas where they may be exposed to excessive heat (temperatures of 120°F or higher)
✓ Use a chain or other support systems to prevent propane cylinders from falling
✓ Check the date on a propane cylinder’s collar periodically to ensure that the cylinder’s re-qualification date has not passed
✓ Keep an eye out for rust and other signs of leaks on propane tanks
✓ Ensure fire extinguishers are placed near areas where propane cylinders are stored
✓ Protect propane cylinder valves to limit the risk of damage if cylinders are dropped or fall
In addition to these storage requirements, propane cylinders used for forklifts must be stored horizontally or vertically. If these cylinders are placed horizontally, their relief device must be pointed upward in the 12 o’clock position.
In terms of propane tank use, CGA and OSHA require workers to:
✓ Follow the manufacturer’s instructions any time they use a forklift or other propane-powered equipment
✓ Ensure only trained and authorized personnel use propane-powered equipment and replace propane tanks
✓ Wear hand, face, and eye protection when connecting or disconnecting a propane tank from equipment
✓ Avoid using metal tools when they change a propane tank
✓ Avoid using too much force when they open a propane tank valve
✓ Avoid rolling, dropping, or dragging a propane cylinder
✓ Close a propane tank’s valve any time the cylinder is not in use
✓ Perform periodic inspections of any propane-powered equipment
✓ Avoid smoking or any other potential ignition sources when working near a propane tank
✓ Avoid disassembling a propane tank
✓ Avoid letting a propane tank overheat
✓ Avoid modifying or repairing a propane tank valve or regulator
✓ Treat empty propane cylinders with the same level of care and attention as if they were full
Propane tank safety is vital, particularly when it comes to businesses that use propane every day. By prioritizing safe use of propane, these businesses can take measures to prevent propane-related accidents.
To ensure safe transport of propane tanks, CGA and OSHA advise workers to:
✓ Keep propane tanks upright and secure them during transport
✓ Close all propane tank valves and seal them with a plug as needed, even if the cylinders are empty
✓ Avoid leaving propane tanks in closed vehicles
✓ Ventilate propane tanks during transport
✓ Avoid smoking when handling or transporting propane tanks
When a vehicle transporting propane tanks reaches its final destination, CGA and OSHA require workers to keep the vehicle at least 5 ft. away from propane tank storage containers. This ensures that propane tank valves are easily accessible.
OSHA Offers Propane-Powered Forklift Safety Checklist
Propane tank safety is a key consideration for forklift operators. Of course, these operators can conduct inspections to validate the safety, quality, and integrity of their machines as well.
Businesses that use propane-powered forklifts must do everything in their power to ensure their operators know how to safely use their machines. The following OSHA propane-powered forklift safety checklist can help these companies and their employees do just that.
Daily Key Off Inspection Checklist
Operators should inspect the following components of propane-powered forklifts daily before they start to use them:
- • Overhead guard
- • Hydraulic cylinders
- • Mast assembly
- • Lift rollers and chains
- • Forks
- • Tires
- • LPG tank, locator pin, and hose
- • Gas gauge
They should also:
- • Look at the engine oil level
- • Assess the battery
- • Verify the hydraulic fluid level
- • Examine the engine coolant level
If any issues are identified, the operator should correct them immediately. If a forklift is in need of significant repairs, the machine should be taken out of commission. At this point, the forklift can be repaired by a qualified technician. Only after the forklift is repaired and evaluated by a qualified technician should it be used once again.
Daily Key On and Engine Running Inspection Checklist
When an operator puts the key into their forklift’s ignition, he or she can validate that the machine’s front, tail, and brake lights work correctly. The operator can also inspect the following engine components:
- • Gauges
- • Oil pressure indicator lamp
- • Ammeter indicator lamp
- • Hour meter
- • Water temperature gauge
Now is a great time to test the forklift’s steering, brakes, and horn as well. If the lift has a safety seat, verify the seat is functioning as expected, too.
Lastly, an operator can check the performance of various forklift load-handling attachments and the machine’s transmission fluid level. He or she can address minor issues on their own. If a forklift requires substantial repairs, the machine should be brought to a qualified technician.
Propane Tank Safety Tips
Along with CGA and OSHA propane tank safety requirements, businesses can use the following tips to further reduce their risk of propane-related accidents:
1. Beware Damaged Propane Tanks
Never use a damaged propane tank. Instead, notify a propane supplier to safely dispose of the defective tank.
2. Take Advantage of an Overfill Protection Device
Use a propane tank that has an overfill protection device in place. This device ensures the tank is filled to the proper level; otherwise, if the tank is overfilled, propane in the cylinder won’t have sufficient room to expand and may combust.
3. Test for Propane Tank Leaks
Apply a leak detector solution or soapy water to a propane tank’s connector valve and outlet. Then, open the cylinder valve to see if bubbles start to form. If bubbles develop, double-check the connection by closing the valve, tightening it, and opening the valve again. At this point, if bubbles still develop, the tank is defective and must be replaced.
Forklift Propane Tank FAQs
1. How long does a tank last?
A typical propane tank lasts six to eight hours. The length of time that the tank can be used varies based on the size of a forklift’s engine.
2. When does a tank need to be replaced?
Tanks of 100 lbs. or less have an expiration date of 12 years from when they were manufactured. They must be inspected and requalified every five to 10 years.
3.Can tanks be stored anywhere at a worksite?
No. Tanks must be stored in a safe location to limit the risk of explosions, spills, and other issues that otherwise hamper workplace safety.
The Bottom Line on Forklift Propane Tank Use and Storage
Propane safety is a key consideration, especially if a business uses propane-powered forklifts. By educating workers about propane tank safety, a business can lower its risk of propane-related accidents.
Certification training programs are available to teach your workers about safe use and storage of forklift propane tanks. A certification training program lets your employees learn about forklift safety at their own speed. It also allows them to become OSHA-approved forklift operators.
At CertifyMeOnline.net, we offer comprehensive forklift safety training courses for workers via CertifyMe.net, our sister site. These courses are available to workers of all skill and experience levels. They teach workers about all aspects of forklift safety — from how to properly operate a forklift to safe storage, use, and transport of propane that powers forklifts. To learn more, explore CertifyMe.net’s forklift safety course offerings today!