Forklift Propane Safety Tips
Forklifts run mainly on gasoline, diesel, or electricity. But do forklifts run on propane? Yes, they do. Now, let’s answer some of the key questions surrounding forklift propane safety.
What Is A Propane-Powered Forklift?
A propane-powered forklift operates in a similar fashion to other types of lifts. It differs from comparable lifts, however, in that it relies on propane for fuel.
In terms of forklift options, many companies prefer propane because it is clean, affordable, and emits no odor. Propane forklifts tend to have lower operating costs and offer greater reliability than other types of lifts. They can require less maintenance than various lift options, too.
Yet, as is the case with any gas product, propane is risky to use. Therefore, it needs to be handled with care at all times. Forklift propane safety must be taken incredibly seriously given the potential for dangerous accidents on the job.
Why Is Forklift Propane Tank Safety Important?
If your business has a propane forklift or intend to use one, you need to plan accordingly. As part of your planning, you need to consider forklift propane tank safety.
OSHA requires training for drivers and maintenance personnel for everything from changing a propane tank on a forklift to proper storage and much more. Thus, forklift propane tank safety is a vital part of overall job safety.
If you’re not sure about your company’s current forklift propane tank safety training and certification, sign up with ForkliftCertification.com today! Our training modules cover all the crucial safety concepts for safe forklift operation, including propane-run lifts!
Forklift Propane Tank Dangers
Many people ask us: are propane forklifts safe indoors? When operated correctly, these lifts are perfectly safe to use in both indoor and outdoor settings. Too often, though, forklift propane safety best practices are ignored. Fail to guard against the worst case scenario and you may have one of the following issues to contend with:
1. Catching Fire
Propane is highly flammable. If it builds up in a room, it can easily catch fire from cigarettes, heaters and other sources. That’s why propane tanks include a leak detection chemical with a bad odor. When you can smell the odor, safety measures should be taken to stop the leak.
2. Incomplete Combustion
Propane is designed to burn at a mixture of four parts propane to 96 parts oxygen. When it doesn’t burn completely, carbon monoxide is produced, which can be fatal if it is inhaled.
3. Tank Damage
Propane is stored in tanks under high pressure. If the tank gets ruptured, it could explode.
4. Gas Buildup
Even if propane is not burned, buildup of the gas can be dangerous. In fact, inhaling the gas can cause hypoxia, a form of oxygen deprivation that can be fatal.
Forklift Propane Tank Safety Tips
OSHA propane forklift regulations require operators to account for the aforementioned risks at every stage of forklift use, including:
- Changing propane tanks on forklifts
- Filling forklift propane tanks
- Transporting forklift propane tanks
Let’s examine these stages in detail.
1. Changing Propane Tanks on Forklifts
Even a simple task like changing a forklift propane tank needs to be handled with care. The impact that changing propane tanks has on forklift safety should not be underestimated. Following these guidelines will keep you safe:
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Propane is cold(-44°F), and contact with it can damage the eyes and cause frostbite on the skin. To avoid contact with the gas when changing propane tanks on forklifts, wear wrap-around safety glasses and thick rubber gloves.
- Make sure the connection hose is empty. Any fuel remaining in the connection hose can spray on your hands or face when disconnecting the coupler. To ensure the hose is empty, run the forklift engine until it stops. Shut off the engine before proceeding. Then unscrew the fitting, remove the tank, and store it properly.
- Inspect the replacement tank before installing it. Look for frost build-up, dents, gouges, or heavy rust. Furthermore, check the condition of the O-ring condition, forklift hose, and fitting for signs of damage.
- Position the tank on the locating pin. This allows you to connect the hose and fitting alignment without twisting or stretching the hose. Also, it ensures the pressure relief valve won’t spray any propane. It allows the pick-up tube inside the tank to get almost all the fuel out of the bottom. And it ensures the fuel gauge will read correctly.
- Make sure the new tank valve is turned off when installing.If the hose coupler is screwed on with an open tank valve, it could spray propane. In addition, make sure the O-ring from the empty tank did not pull out. This could jam the check valve and prevent the forklift from starting.
- Carefully attach the forklift fitting. Screw it all the way in and hand-tighten. Slowly open the valve, being alert for leaks. When the valve is fully opened, the surge valve inside the tank will shut the tank off if a hose or fitting fails.
- Check for leaks. White frost, rushing noises or a bad odor are all signs that you have a leak. Shut off the tank valve and ventilate the area. Then get a different tank to install.
2. Filling Forklift Propane Tanks
Some companies exchange empty propane tanks for full ones through a service provider. Others prefer to fill their own tanks. If you opt for this method, here’s how to do it safely.
First, OSHA propane forklift regulations recommend you don PPE. Then, locate the fill valve on the cylinder and remove the cap. Securely attach your fill line to the fill valve and open the bleed valve. You may hear a hissing sound when the valve is open. This is okay if air is being vented rather than propane.
Slowly open the valve on the fill line and check for leaks as the propane enters the tank. When the tank is full, the bleeder valve will emit a spray of white propane gas. Turn the fill valve all the way off. Then close the bleeder valve. Carefully remove the fill line from the tank. Replace the cap on the fill valve and make sure all valves are closed. The tank is now full and ready to use.
One final note about filling forklift propane tanks: never leave the tank unattended when filling. The tank must be shut off as soon as it is full.
3. Transporting Forklift Propane Tanks
The safest method of transporting forklift propane tanks is to have them delivered to your place of business by a propane exchange service. If you prefer to buy the cylinders and bring them back to your facility, follow these safety tips. Changing propane tank on forklift safety comes down to personal responsibility, so it’s important to proceed with caution.
To maximize forklift propane safety during transport, never carry more than four propane cylinders in a sedan or SUV at one time. No single cylinder should contain no more than 45 lbs. of propane. The combined weight of all the cylinders in an enclosed vehicle should not exceed 90 lbs. All cylinders should be secured in a vertical and upright position.
The safest way to secure a cylinder is with a propane tank holder and stabilizer. Sturdy crates can also be used. Securing a propane cylinder with rope, twine, or strap is okay as long as there is a good anchor point in the car.
If you have a pickup truck or trailer, you can safely transport up to 1,000 lbs. of propane in the back. Make sure the cylinders are stowed in a vertical and upright position. If you use 100-pound propane cylinders, have two people lift them into the truck or trailer to avoid dropping them.
Do’s And Don’ts Of Forklift Propane Safety
Propane is a hazardous material, and should always be treated with respect. For proper forklift propane tank safety, here are some suggestions for things to do and NOT to do.
- Wear eye protection and gloves when handling propane cylinders
- Close all propane valves when not in use
- Store all cylinders in sturdy safety storage racks
- Use soap or a leak detector when searching for leak
- Shut off valves and put the cylinder outside when a leak is detected
- Read the warning labels attached to propane cylinders
- Close the cylinder valve before transporting propane
- Store cylinders in an upright position in well-ventilated areas
- Use a chain or adequate support system to protect cylinders from falling
- Store propane tanks near heat sources or ignition areas
- Smoke when handling a propane cylinder
- Drop, dent, or damage the cylinder.
- Use excessive force when opening a valve
- Let the cylinder get too hot
- Use matches or a flame to check for leaks
- Mount more than two LPG cylinders on any forklift truck
- Use harsh metal tools when changing a propane tank on a forklift
These are all important considerations relative to forklift propane tank safety.
Frequently Asked Questions About Forklift Propane Safety
Still have questions about forklift propane tank safety best practices? Allow us to address them below:
How Long Does A Propane Tank Last?
The length of time a forklift propane tank lasts varies based on the lift’s engine. Ultimately, the bigger the engine, the more propane the lift requires to run at peak levels.
Most forklifts can hold an 8-gal. (33-lb.) tank of propane. So, a lift with a 4-cylinder engine and an 8-gal. tank can typically run for up to eight hours before it needs to be refueled. Comparatively, if the lift has a 6-cylinder engine and an 8-gal. fuel capacity, its tank may last up to six hours.
A diesel forklift may include an 8-cylinder engine, too. In this instance, the lift may have a 10-gal. tank. If the lift’s tank is full, it can usually run for up to six hours.
Do Forklift Propane Tanks Expire?
A forklift propane tank with a capacity of 100 lbs. or less expires within 12 years of manufacture. Following the tank’s expiration date, it can typically be exchanged for a replacement. Or, the tank can be inspected for requalification for five years.
Forklift propane tanks are marked with a requalification date. They must be requalified every five to 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The exact requalification date depends on a tank’s cylinder type, condition, and prior requalification method.
DOT requires all forklift propane tanks must be visually inspected before they can be filled. If any defects are discovered, a tank must not be refilled. And, if a forklift propane tank exceeds its requalification date, the tank must not be refilled.
Does a Propane Forklift Produce Carbon Monoxide?
Many people wonder about carbon monoxide and are propane forklifts safe indoors. While it’s true that propane forklifts do emit carbon monoxide, the levels are typically very low. This can vary, of course, from machine to machine – an older lift will emit far more carbon monoxide than a brand new one. So long as you regularly maintain your forklift and replace dirty air filters frequently, the carbon monoxide emitted from the vehicle should not pose a health hazard.
Can a Propane Forklift Explode?
Yes, propane explosions are not out of the realm of possibility. That’s why it’s so important to put a focus on education and on forklift propane tank safety in the workplace. Even the smallest of sparks can ignite a fireball if forklift fuel is not handled with care. Never smoke or use a lighter around a forklift powered by propane.
How Much Does a Full Propane Tank Weigh for a Forklift?
The answer to this question depends greatly on the size of your propane tank. Generally speaking, more forklift propane tanks weigh between 56 and 70 pounds when full. Be sure to check the exact figures on your specific lift before proceeding. It’s the best way to prioritize forklift propane safety and prevent accidents.
Sign up for FLC’s Forklift Propane Safety Program Today
Whether you use propane, gas, diesel, or electric forklifts, forklift propane tank certification is essential. ForkliftCertification.com provides OSHA-approved online forklift propane safety certification at a price that’s affordable for any business, including yours!
Classes take about an hour to complete. Whether you need help with learning about changing a propane tank on a forklift to other critical safety concepts, we’ll help get you the certification necessary for 100% OSHA compliance! Our training modules can be taken anywhere you have an Internet connection. And they teach workers how to safely handle propane when operating their forklift. Keep your people and your trucks safe with our forklift propane tank safety certification today!