Propane Motor Fuel & Forklift Safety
Propane-powered forklifts are perhaps the most widely used type of forklift over a wide array of applications. These units are used in warehousing, distribution, industry and commercial applications. Because of the unique nature of propane, certain safety procedures and practices must be applied when using this equipment.
Forklifts are powered by a number of different fuels. These include gasoline, diesel, electric and propane. The propane-powered machine is perhaps the most popular and widespread of any type in operation. There are several reasons for this. Propane burns very cleanly and will have far less exhaust fumes than either a diesel or gasoline model unit. Each of these units operates in much the same manner. When in operation, the operator must not smoke or use any other open flame. Most propane units also have a fuel tank, which can be changed out when empty. It is critical for this tank to be secure and all restraints in place while the machine is in operation.
Propane is extremely cold, and special safety precautions must be used when fueling the unit or when changing out an empty fuel tank. Fueling must be done well away from any open flame or ignition source. There is no smoking in the fueling area. Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn by the operator during fueling or changing of the tanks. This must include full eye protection, as well as thick gloves to protect the hands and wrist from exposure. Propane is so cold it can cause extremely serious burns if allowed to come into contact with your skin.
The large refueling tank, or the smaller fuel canisters must be stored in a secure location away from the main building or complex. "No Smoking" signs must be prominently displayed. The tanks should be stored in a secure enclosure, which is only accessible by authorized personnel. The enclosure itself must be protected from vehicle impact. This can be accomplished with concrete bumpers or other retaining systems. A fire extinguisher must also be readily available at the fueling station. Anyone operating the fueling station must be trained to do so and must also be trained to operate the fire extinguisher, as well.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all persons operating an industrial-powered lift truck (forklift) to be properly trained. This training will include both a classroom portion, as well as a hands-on training element. At the conclusion, the person must be tested to be certain they have understood the training materials. A portion of this training must include the proper method of refueling the forklift, as well and the precautions and sight-specific procedures involved in the refueling of any unit they may be operating.