Propane is a known leader in the material handling market, which is why it’s critical to reinforce forklift safety practices associated with the equipment, as well as highlight the safety benefits offered by this energy source.
Propane compares favorably to diesel and electric on several fronts, including versatility, reliability, efficiency, and lower emissions. Propane, most notably, holds roughly 90 percent market share for class 4 and 5 forklifts, according to data from the Propane Education & Research Council. The majority of fleet managers also prefer propane to diesel or electric equipment — 70 percent from the 5,000 to 10,000 lbs. capacity range and 51 percent from the 10,000 and heavier capacities.
Beyond the key benefits that make the energy source so popular, propane offers a variety of built-in safety perks as well:
The propane industry prioritizes consumer safety
Just like safety is important to you, it’s important to us, too. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) — and the propane industry as a whole — are passionate about the safety of customers, employees, and the communities that we serve.
To help educate propane users and promote user safety, the Propane Council provides a variety of safety and training programs. In addition, our website, Propane.com, serves as a hub of valuable resources including information on the safe delivery, storage, and use of propane.
The propane industry also has dedicated procedures to support the safety of businesses operating propane-powered equipment, including the support of local propane suppliers across the United States. A propane supplier can serve as a great safety resource for businesses operating with propane, as one of their top priorities is to make sure customers and their crews understand how to properly and safely install cylinders on their forklifts. Some propane suppliers may even offer additional safety training opportunities for forklift customers.
The energy source itself is really safe, too
Propane is a non-poisonous, non-toxic energy source, making it safe to use anywhere — outdoors or indoors. This is because propane leaks do not harm soil and have negligible effects on the ozone layer. Similarly, propane leaks do not pose an environmental hazard to drinking water or marine ecosystems, whereas spilled gasoline can quickly contaminate groundwater beyond drinking water health advisory levels.
Propane is also colorless and virtually odorless. As a safety precaution, an identifying odor is added to propane so it can be readily detected in case of leaks. Plus, it’s an approved clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act, helping contribute to cleaner, safer air for employees working near the equipment. Diesel equipment, on the other hand, releases toxins that have proven to irritate respiratory issues like asthma and is classified as a carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.
Propane tanks are 20 times more puncture resistant than tanks filled with ethanol, methanol, or gasoline, and are constructed from carbon steel, under the procedures developed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.And propane has the lowest flammability rating of any alternative fuel. The smaller flammability range of propane compared with ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, and natural gas reduces the likelihood that propane will ignite unintentionally in the event of a leak.
Propane-specific safety reminders
Just like with any heavy equipment, proper safety measures must be maintained when operating propane forklifts. Beyond general safety tips like wearing a seatbelt, operating at a safe speed, and maintaining safe distances from the edge of ramps, there are a few propane-specific handling requirements to keep in mind:
- Inspect propane cylinders prior to operation. Check cylinders for rusting, dents, gouges, and leaks. Cylinders that show signs of wear or leaks shouldn’t be used and may need to be replaced, even if within the cylinder’s requalification date.
- Store cylinders in a secure rack or cage, which will ideally be located away from exits, stairways, entryways, and high-traffic areas. A facility’s propane supplier can help identify the best location for cylinder cages. Cylinders can be stored horizontally with the pressure relief valves in the uppermost position, and operators should use proper lifting techniques whenever handling cylinders.
- When not in use, close the service valves on cylinders. This helps prevent potential injury around internal combustion engines, and unintended fuel loss.
- Secure the pressure relief valve on the cylinder. Operators should check that the pressure relief valve fitting is roughly 180 degrees from the forklift’s locating pin.
Visit Propane.com/SafetyFirst to learn more about forklift safety.