How to Safely Handle Propane

No Smoking propane safety signPropane is a clean and efficient fuel, but it is only as safe as those who handle it make it be. Propane becomes highly flammable when it mixes with oxygen and although rare, when propane accidents occur, the consequences can be devastating. Here’s how to safely handle propane.

Keeping propane contained in the tank when not in use is the first priority when handling or storing propane tanks:

  • Propane tanks should never be left standing free. Instead, place them against a wall and strap them to the wall.
  • When disconnecting a propane tank, first close the valve tightly and then carefully disconnect the attached hose, making sure you don’t puncture or damage it.
  • Use a hand truck to move propane tanks. This is far safer and more efficient than manually lifting or rolling them.
  • When transporting propane tanks in a vehicle, make sure they are firmly secured in the upright position.

When propane is used as fuel in a confined area, carbon monoxide poisoning can become a danger. While every forklift owner knows that all internal combustion (IC) forklifts must be driven in well-ventilated areas, it’s not always possible to know if there’s enough ventilation to prevent the dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide fumes. That’s why we recommend purchasing inexpensive carbon monoxide detector cards. These cards have a product life of 18 months and will indicate whether carbon monoxide levels are normal, if caution is required or if they have reached dangerous levels.

When propane leaks occur, they can be difficult to detect. Wherever propane tanks are stored, clearly visible No Smoking safety signs should be posted to remind everyone in the vicinity that propane gas and fire are an explosive and deadly combination.

Locating the source of a propane leak can be difficult. A pinhole leak in a hose or a faulty connection may be the source, but which is it? Keep leak detection compound on hand and find the source of the leak fast.

lock out tagsIf you need to take a propane tank or piece of equipment out of action for repairs, you don’t want anyone to inadvertently use them. Lock-out tags and lock-out boxes are designed to make sure this can’t happen. These facility safety products are so inexpensive and effective, they should always be kept on hand.

The best protection you can have against a propane accident is an education in their safe and proper handling. All employees who handle propane, and even those who don’t regularly handle it, can benefit from a Propane Cylinder Exchange Training Program. Far more effective than a verbal or written explanation, the training program includes everything you need to make sure the training is understood and sticks.

Do you think there’s such a thing as too much precaution when handling propane? If so, think again. In the 1960s and 1970s, propane accidents were common. Thanks to better training, they are more rare than in the past, but they still occur. In a recent forklift accident in Ohio, 2 brothers were carrying propane tanks on their forklift. One tank shifted and a brass fitting was knocked off of it. Although the tank was empty, there were still enough fumes to cause an explosion. The moral? When dealing with propane, there’s no such thing as “too safe.”

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