Forklift Propane Safety
Forklifts run mainly on gasoline, diesel or electricity. But do forklifts run on propane? Yes they do. In fact, many companies prefer propane because it is clean, affordable, and emits no odor. However, as with any gas product propane is risky to use and needs to be handled with care. This blog will focus on forklift propane safety, including how to change, fill and transport the tanks.
The Dangers of Propane as a Forklift Fuel
Using propane presents four types of risks:
- 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.
- 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 lethal if breathed in.
- Tank damage. Propane is stored in tanks under high pressure. If the tank gets ruptured, it could explode.
- Even if propane is not burned, buildup of the gas can be deadly when inhaled. Breathing the gas can cause hypoxia, a form of oxygen deprivation that can be fatal.
These risks require safe handling of propane at every stage of use, including:
- Changing propane tanks on forklifts
- Filling forklift propane tanks
- Transporting forklift propane tanks
Let’s examine these stages in detail.
Changing Propane Tanks on Forklifts
Even a simple task like changing a forklift propane tank needs to be handled with care. Following these guidelines will keep you safe:
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Propane is cold (-44 degrees Fahrenheit). 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. Also, 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. 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. Also, 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.
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, don PPE gear. 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.
Transporting Forklift Propane Tanks
The safest method of transporting forklift propane tanks it 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:
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 a more than 45 pounds of propane. The combined weight of all the cylinders in an enclosed vehicle should not exceed 90 pounds. 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 pounds 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.
- 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 leaks.
- 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.
- Smoke when handling a propane cylinder.
- Drop, dent or damage the cylinder.
- Use metal tools when changing a cylinder.
- Use excessive force when opening a valve.
- Let the cylinder get too hot.
- Use matches or a flame to check for leaks.
- Store cylinders close to heat or ignition sources.
- Mount more than two LPG cylinders on any forklift truck.
Forklift Propane Safety Training
Whether you use propane, gas, diesel or electric forklifts, safety training is essential. forkliftcertification.com provides OSHA-approved online forklift propane safety training at a price you can afford. Classes take about an hour to complete. They 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 convenient online training.