Many lift trucks run on propane [often referred to as LP because in the cylinder it is in a liquid form]. It is easy to use and economical. Propane is however highly combustible which can cause a fire or even explode if handled wrong.
When propane is in a cylinder, it’s in a liquid form. Propane has a very low boiling point of -44 degrees Fahrenheit and will immediately turn into a gas when it’s released into the air. Because propane expands 270 times when converted into a gas, there is no such thing as a “small” propane leak. A leak will travel along the floor because propane is heavier than air and will stay there if there is no ventilation. A large leak may travel a long distance to an area of open flame, ignite and travel back to the source.
- Always wear safety glasses and gloves when changing a propane
- Before changing a cylinder, let the engine of the truck run with the propane cylinder valve turned OFF to reduce pressure in the LP line. If you don’t propane may be released when loosening the coupling potentially giving you a serious frost burn [see gloves above].
- And of course, don’t smoke near the cylinder changing area
- Store cylinders in a safe and approved method. In Minnesota there are rules applying to the number of cylinders that can be in a building at one time when not on a lift truck. Check local regulations for the correct procedures.
- Ensure the pressure relieve valve points UP when installing the cylinder, use your eyes ears and nose to inspect for leaks. Also insure the tank is secured with the LP locating pin fully engaged.
- When a propane leak is suspected in a confined area, your first responsibility is to clear the area of all personnel.
- When changing lift truck cylinders, the truck ignition must be off and safety glasses or a face shield and gloves should be worn.
Changing LP tanks is another one of those small day to day tasks that may be overlooked or ignored when considering safety factors. The truth is when you think of the potential for fire or explosion it’s an activity that requires constant awareness when being performed.
A recent fire news story can be read here. This is a serious work activity, one that requires attention to detail.