Propane fuel, commonly known as LPG, is a very popular fuel used on internal combustion forklifts. Certain safety rules apply in the safe handling of LPG. Propane is a colorless, tasteless, odorless, nontoxic (non-poisonous) and heavier than air gas.


A smell is added to propane to aid in the detection of leaks. It is stored

in a cylinder under pressure and stays in a liquid state. The temperature of this gas while in this cylinder is around -45°F. It has a boiling point of -44° at which point it will turn to a vapor.


When changing a propane tank, certain precautions should be taken:


1. Check the area around you. Are you near any open flames or sparks?


2. Before exiting your forklift, lower the forks to the ground, neutralize the truck set the parking brake and chock the wheels if on an incline.


3. Go around to the side of the fork truck and shut the fuel valve off on your propane tank.


4. Get back into the operator’s compartment and wait for the forklift to stall out. Once it has , try to re-start your truck one more time. If it does not start, you are safely out of fuel in the lines and the pressure has been reduced.


5. Go back to the side of the forklift and wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before going any further. The use of thick rubber gloves is recommended, so if you forgot to close the valve on the tank, the propane fuel will not absorb into the rubber gloves as it might with cloth gloves and do serious harm to your skin. Caution! At -44°F, this will not frostbite you; it will burn your skin! Also protect your eyes: use goggles as opposed to safety glasses they sit tight to your face and have no openings.


6. Unscrew the brass coupling from the tank, release the tank brackets and remove the tank from the truck. Use proper lifting techniques when putting the full propane tank up on the truck; a full tank is heavy!


7. Place the full tank on the truck; make sure the valve on the full tank is OFF. Line up the small hole on the collar of the tank with the locator pin on your tank bracket, making sure that the pressure relief valve on the tank is facing in the up position or 12 o’clock position.


8. Screw the hose coupling onto the full tank. Always check the hose for any cracks, cuts or leaks and report any problems immediately.


9. Secure the tank brackets and turn the valve on the tank to the open position.


10. Then, Listen, Look and Smell for any leaks. Because of the odor placed in the propane, you should be able to smell a leak immediately, or see any heavy frost build-up on any fittings. NEVER use a match or cigarette lighter to check for any leaks. As funny as this may sound, it has happened many times.


For Inside storage, OSHA 1910.110(f)(4)(i) states: “The quantity of LP gas stored inside building(s) will not exceed 300 pounds.”  


This means if a standard LP tank holds 33 pounds, then no more than nine tanks can be stored inside, even if some tanks are full, half full or empty. Note, propane tanks already on the forklifts do NOT count toward this number. Exceeding this number is considered a SERIOUS violation in OSHA’s view and can result up to a $7,000 fine.


According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA 5-4.1), storage of propane tanks outside of buildings awaiting use, shall be at least 20 feet away from any doorway or opening in a building frequented by the public.

Protection of cylinders under NFPA 5-4.2.1(b) states: “A lockable ventilated metal locker or rack that prevents tampering with valves and pilferage of the cylinder.”



Stay safe

Dave Bennett

EH&S Manager