Propane Safety: What You Need to Know

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.

Why Is Propane Safety Important?

Propane is flammable, and as such, businesses that store, use, or transport propane must follow CGA (Compressed Gas Association) and OSHA propane safety guidelines. In doing so, these companies can limit the risk of propane explosions, spills, and other propane-related accidents.

A Closer Look at CGA and OSHA Propane Safety Guidelines

CGA and OSHA propane safety guidelines can be classified into three categories:

1. Storage

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.

2. Use

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.

3. Transportation

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.

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.

The Bottom Line on Propane Safety

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.

At CertifyMe.net, we offer comprehensive forklift safety training courses for workers of all skill and experience levels. Our courses 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 about our forklift safety training courses, please contact us online or call us at 1-888-699-4800.

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