When working with any type of forklift, safety is a top priority. Gas forklift trucks can be safe additions to a warehouse fleet, but operations need to take additional precautions when employing liquefied propane (LP) lift trucks to maintain compliance with relevant regulations.
The good news is that most propane regulations are straightforward. For the most part, OSHA’s propane regulations are detailed in 1926.153, though other standards apply to cylinder handling and storage. To maintain compliance — and to prevent a major accident in the workplace — employers need to understand the regulations, invest in suitable equipment, and train employees to follow safe handling and storage practices.
Choosing Propane Cylinder Storage Containers
LP lift trucks use propane canisters that can create explosive hazards, but proper storage helps to mitigate the risk. Because propane is heavier than air, it will settle to the ground. Pockets of propane could ignite when exposed to a heat source, and storing propane cylinders in an open-air storage container helps to prevent gases from building to dangerous concentrations.
Of course, cylinder storehouses and transporters must also provide adequate security for products, and they need to protect cylinders from weathering. BHS offers the Cylinder Storehouse (CSH) and Cylinder Storage Cage (CSC), both of which use slotted metal to provide for safe and secure storage. The Cylinder Storehouse features a pitched roof to minimize exposure to the elements, and its modular design allows for expansion as an operation’s fleet grows. Investments in cylinder storage pay off in the long term, as proper storage helps to keep tanks in optimal condition for regular use — and limits the possibility of a OSHA violation.
Other important considerations to keep in mind when choosing propane storage solutions:
- LP lift truck propane cylinders can be stored vertically or horizontally. However, when stored vertically, a cylinder’s relief device must be vented upwards within 45 degrees of the vertical, per 110(e)(7)(ii).
- Gas containers should be stored in a location that minimizes exposure to physical damage, tampering, or excessive temperature rises, per 1910.110(f)(2)(i).
- LP containers cannot be stored near exits, stairways, or in areas “normally used for the safe exit of people,” per 1910.110(f)(2)(ii). Likewise, LP-powered trucks should not be left in egress areas.
Consult OSHA regulations when expanding your fleet, as the administration has strict limits for the amount of LP gas stored onsite (those limits vary depending on whether the gases are stored inside or outside of buildings, the location of nearby buildings, and other factors).
Training Staff to Handle LP Cylinders Safely
To keep fleets operating at optimal efficiency, employers should choose refueling solutions that promote proper ergonomics. While OSHA regulations don’t specifically cover ergonomics, the General Duty Clause allows inspectors to issue violations for practices that carry significant, avoidable risks — asking employees to manually lift LP gas canisters certainly qualifies. There are also practical reasons to invest in ergonomics: Dedicated propane handlers improve productivity, allowing a single employee to refuel multiple trucks quickly and safely.
The BHS Propane Tugger Trailer (PTT-6) is an ergonomic solution for handling LP tank changes. Capable of carrying six 8-gallon LP tanks, it has an integrated crane with a hand pump and release lever, so employees don’t need to bend, twist, or lift to refuel multiple lift trucks on a single run. A combination of swivel and rigid casters ensure smooth travel, improving safety for common LP cylinder handling tasks.
Any employee who works with LP tanks & cylinders should be trained to handle fuels safely. Propane gas is a safe fuel, but common-sense precautions must be taken to prevent a disaster and to maintain full compliance with OSHA.
- Only authorized workers should replace LP containers. These workers should receive proper training and refresher training.
- All personnel should wear gloves when handling gas canisters. Liquid propane gas is extremely cold, frostbite can occur within seconds.
- LP lift trucks and canisters must be inspected regularly. Damaged trucks and canisters must be fully repaired before returning to use.
- Trucks and canisters can never be exposed to potential sources of ignition. That includes leaving LP canisters in areas prone to excessive heat, per 1910.110(e)(13)(v).
- Never repair lift trucks near propane cylinders. Vehicles cannot be serviced within 10 feet of LP gas containers, per 1910.110(h)(6)(ii)(b).
With proper storage and handling, LP-powered lift trucks are both safe and reliable. OSHA regulations can be a valuable tool for employers, and compliance helps to ensure a safe propane handling strategy.