Propane-fueled forklifts are constantly present in warehouses, manufacturing plants, and distribution facilities in the US, and for a good reason. Propane for forklifts is cost-effective and ensures full power throughout operation. It helps reduce a company’s carbon footprint, too. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that a propane-fueled vehicle generates 30 to 90 percent less carbon monoxide and approximately 50 percent fewer toxins and other emissions that can produce smog compared to gasoline engines. The fuel is nontoxic, too, but there are certain safety precautions operators and businesses must practice when using propane forklifts. Here are some of them:

  • Wear appropriate clothing – Qualified forklift operators must wear the right clothing, such as a hard hat, hi-visibility jackets, safety shoes, and clothes that fit well, as loose garments could get caught on the vehicle.
  • Check the forklift before use – Equipment must be checked routinely before use. Check for problems on the brakes, warning devices, controls, steering, tires, and the mast.
  • Be responsible – Never operate the propane forklift past its speed limit, slowly turn on corners to prevent tipping, and stop or maneuver slowly and gradually.
  • Replacing a cylinder must be performed only by a qualified professional – Propane for forklifts is stored in tanks or cylinders that are attached to the vehicle. According to the Propane Education and Research Council, changing the cylinder should only be done by properly trained professionals who know all the safety procedures. This person should wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, as contact with liquid propane could result in frostbite. Safety glasses must be worn, too.
  • Check the manual – Forklift manufacturers recommend reading the manual they provide with their vehicles for model-specific safety precautions and handling tips.
  • Follow proper protocol for empty cylinder removal – Make sure the forklift is parked and properly braked in a safe area and that the engine is switched off. Shut the service valve of the propane cylinder by turning it clockwise. Turn the female quick-connect fitting counter-clockwise to disconnect it from the male quick-connect. Disconnect the toggle clamp securing the propane cylinder to the vehicle, and lift the cylinder properly off the forklift.
  • Be conscious of the smell of rotten eggs – Propane is a colorless and odorless gas, but manufacturers who make propane for forklifts add a distinct smell for easy leak detection. The smell is similar to rotten eggs, a dead animal, or skunk spray.
  • Shut all propane valves when not in use – After a day’s shift, make sure that the forklift’s engine is off and that the fuel valves are closed.

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