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Liquid propane is one of the most common forklift fuels because it is inexpensive, convenient and affordable.
But propane also is flammable and can be extremely dangerous if handled incorrectly. So being smart about the way you use propane is essential for workplace safety.
First of all, there are several safety facts you need to know about propane:
- Propane tanks are specially built to withstand a lot of abuse. They are 20 times more puncture-resistant than tanks used for ethanol, methanol or gasoline. Propane tanks are built of carbon steel under strict procedures created byt he American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
- Propane cylinders have a device that automatically cuts off the filling process when the tank is 80% filed. This helps stabilize the pressure inside the tank and accounts for temperature variations so that propane isn’t emitted from the tank during storage.
- Propane has the lowest flammability rating of any alternative fuel.
- A special chemical is added to propane that gives it the odor of rotten eggs. This is so leaks can easily be detected. Normally, propane is odorless.
- Unlike most other fuels, propane won’t contaminate water or soil. It’s also impossible to ingest because it vaporizes the moment it is released from its canister. Leaks won’t pool. Instead, propane will simply dissipate into the air.
- Propane has a much higher ignition point than gasoline. Gas will explode at 430 to 500 degrees F, but propane won’t ignite until the air reaches at least 940 degrees F.
Handling Propane Safely
You should never modify or try to repair a propane system on your forklift by yourself. Instead, contact an authorized propane repair person. Tampering with the propane system on your vehicle can be potentially dangerous.
If you smell the distinctive odor of propane in the air, it could indicate a dangerous situation. Evacuate the area and contact your local fire department. Extinguish all open flames and avoid touching any electrical switches or appliances.
In the event of a propane leak, go to you propane system’s storage vessel, open the tank hood, and shut off the vapor service valve. Then contact a qualified service technician for help.
There are electronic propane leak detectors you can buy and install in your business.
Other Safety Tips
Propane is heavier than air. So if you do experience a leak, the vapor will descend to the lowest point, such as a basement or cellar. If you suspect a leak, avoid these places.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, loss of muscular control, vomiting, and watering of the eyes. If you experience any of these symptoms, call for an ambulance immediately.
To ensure you and your employees are completely up to speed on the safe handling and use of propane in your workplace, you should require that everybody go through a qualified propane safety training and certification program.
Propane is incredibly helpful and can improve the productivity and profitability of your business. But like any potentially hazardous substance, it needs to be treated with respect and caution.