Safe Forklift Operations with the Help of Propane

With deadlines looming and a dizzying pace of work, it’s easy to see why safety considerations for the various energy sources that power warehouses can be forgotten yet safety is still important in preventing accidents.

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Forklifts keep the supply chains in motion, moving product and materials in and out of warehouses, throughout job sites, and on and off-loading docks with ever increasing volumes every day. Aside from moving product and fulfilling orders promptly, warehouse managers and forklift operators top priority on the floor is safety. Forklift operator’s jobs are anything but routine. Observing all necessary precautions are often second nature as safety is engrained in their workplace culture. With deadlines looming and a dizzying pace of work, it’s easy to see why safety considerations for the various energy sources that power warehouses can be forgotten.

Regular safety meetings keep safety topics top of mind for crews and ensure every operator is trained in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Here are a few forklift safety tips to share with employees.

Essential Forklift Safety

  • Complete a routine check of equipment before operating and notify management of damages or problems.
  • Wear proper PPE such as hard hats, protective footwear, eye protection, high-visibility clothing on the warehouse floor and while operating a forklift.
  • Buckle up every time. One of the most important tips to remember. Overturned forklifts are one of the leading causes of forklift-related accidents.
  • Move slowly and use the horn. When vision is obstructed, it’s easy to have a collision. Using the horn at every intersection will help to keep pedestrians and other operators safe.
  • Know your forklift’s weight capacity. Weight capacity markings are there for a reason and that is to keep operators safe. Exceeding the weight capacity of a forklift significantly increases the risk of tipping.
  • Lower, park, and set. When finished operating a forklift, it’s important to always lower the forks, use the parking brake and set the controls to neutral. Safely parking the machine reduces the risk of unintended movement and injury. If parking on an incline be sure to use wheel blocks to secure the machine further.
  • Mind the ramp. Drivers should always carry a load pointing up an incline with their head pointed in the direction they are going. If unloaded, keep the forks pointed downgrade.
  • Inspect forklift fleets regularly. Regular maintenance helps prevent unnecessary damage to the equipment and keeps employees safe.
  • Keep forklifts clean and free from excess oil and grease.

Each forklift model has its own set of safety procedures which is why it’s important to read the manual and stay up to date on recalls and maintenance. Each energy source has its own set of safety precautions to be aware of. As one of the most common energy sources used to power forklifts it’s important to keep the following safety tips top of mind while operating with propane.

Propane forklift safety tips

  • Inspect cylinders before 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. Confirm the cylinder valve is closed before connecting.
  • Use proper lift techniques to place a cylinder onto a forklift. The cylinder should be carefully placed into the cradle so that the cylinder pin enters the locating hole in the cylinder collar. Once properly situated, secure the cylinder by tightening the brackets and check for leaks using a leak detection solution.
  • 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. 
  • Firmly tighten the gas line to the service connection.
  • Close the service valves on cylinders when not in use. This helps prevent potential injury around internal combustion engines and unintended fuel loss. 
  • Store propane cylinders in a secure rack or cage. The cylinders should be stored horizontally with the pressure relief valves in the uppermost position and operators should use proper lifting techniques when removing cylinders from storage and placing onto a forklift. 

A propane cylinder storage rack should be located a safe distance from heat or ignition sources, away from stairwells and high traffic areas and protected from exposure to the elements. 

Fortunately for crews operating propane-powered forklifts, they can rely on their local propane supplier for support. Local suppliers offer safety training opportunities, inspect cylinders each time they’re exchanged, remove and recycle damaged cylinders from service and repair or replace leaky valves and O-rings on cylinders as needed. Depending on which refueling option businesses choose, propane suppliers can teach forklift operators how to refill cylinders themselves or can refill cylinders for them.

While it may seem obvious, simple safety reminders can make the difference between a smooth-running day and an avoidable catastrophe.