Safety, refueling training builds the next generation of propane-fueled forklift operators

Propane providers answer frequently asked questions about refueling propane-fueled forklifts

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Propane-fueled forklifts have been a fixture in United States warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants for decades, in part because they maintain consistent, 100 percent power throughout operation and offer ground speed advantages greater than other energy sources. With more than 600,000 propane-fueled forklifts in operation in the U.S., and many experienced forklift operators nearing retirement, it is important that facility ownership and management adequately prepare the next generation.

Training offered by propane providers is one way to ensure that all propane-fueled forklift operators develop important skills and safety habits. In a conversation I had recently with our friends at PERC (The Propane Education & Research Council), they shared with me the following.

These are actual questions posed by propane-fueled forklift operators during refueling training offered by propane providers Ferrellgas and Heritage Propane, along with responses from those providers.

Q: How do you attach the propane cylinder?
A: A pin on the forklift must be in place when refilling the cylinder, which matches up with a hole in the cylinder collar and ensures that the relief valve in the cylinder is in the vapor space and pointing up. After attaching the cylinder to the forklift itself, the next step is attaching the fuel line hose to the service line. A propane provider will provide detailed instructions during a refueling training session. It also is important to ensure that operators follow all safety procedures.

Q: Does it matter how the propane cylinder is placed on the forklift?
A: Yes. The propane cylinder must be placed on the forklift with the locator hole in the collar in the 6 o’clock position. This is important for the performance of the forklift. If the cylinder is not aligned correctly, the forklift will not receive liquid propane from the cylinder and will run poorly.

Q: Why is it important to wear gloves when replacing propane cylinders?
A: It is important to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as thermal protection gloves, because even small amounts of propane that may come in contact with the skin can cause freeze burn. Correct placement of the cylinder with the pin in the slot or hole is necessary because this keeps the relief valve pointing up and out, and away from the forklift operator.

Q: Can I fill the propane cylinder while it is still on the forklift?
Filling cylinders on the truck requires certain safety measures, and not all jurisdictions allow filling on the truck. Always check with your supervisor before filling a cylinder while it is attached to the forklift.

Q: How can I tell if the propane cylinder has a leak?
A: Leaks can be detected by using a soap-and-water mixture around all the connections and the valves; if it begins bubbling, that indicates there is a leak. If there is a leak, if possible and with extreme care, take the cylinder outside to an isolated area, away from any ignition sources. Then call your propane provider.

Q: What do I do if I smell propane?
A: Odorized propane smells like smell of rotten eggs, a skunk’s spray, or a dead animal.  If you smell it, there may very well be a leak. If possible, and with extreme care, close the supply valve and take the cylinder outside to an isolated area away from any ignition sources, and tag it “out of service”.  If the leak continues, immediately leave the area and contact your supervisor and propane provider.

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source through research and development, training, and safety initiatives.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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