Why Propane is Dangerous
Before we get into the process of changing forklift propane tanks, it's important to address the hazards of working with this fuel.
Propane is kept under super low temperatures of -43.6°F or less.
So any contact with your skin can quickly result in a serious case of frostbite.
Propane can quickly cause frostbite
Frostbite is most likely to happen when disconnecting and reconnecting a tank to your forklift's fuel line.
That's why it's so important that you wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when doing so.
What Are OSHA’s PPE Requirements for Changing Propane Tanks?
OSHA mandates that employers must provide PPE when they've identified hazards that have the potential to injure employees.
But they don't say exactly what kind of PPE is required.
However, at a minimum, employees should wear impact-resistant, non-vented goggles, neoprene or rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and steel toe boots.
Beyond that, your best resource for selecting the correct PPE is to consult a manufacturer or seller.
If your skin does come in contact with the vapor, you should immerse the affected part in a warm water bath between 104° and 107° F for 15 to 30 minutes.
Then seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Fire & Explosions
Propane - like gasoline - is highly flammable as well as explosive.
Besides that, propane vapor can travel long distances along the ground and accumulate in a "vapor pool."
Propane is extremely flammable and an explosion hazard
In these conditions, an open flame - or even a spark - can easily result in a disaster.
There's one more danger associated with propane: Asphyxiation.
Since propane vapor displaces oxygen, large amounts of it can cause those working in the area to asphyxiate.
Though rare, accumulated propane vapor can cause asphyxiation
That said, asphyxiation by propane is unlikely to occur.
Nevertheless, you should be aware of the symptoms, including:
- Loss of coordination and judgement
If you or a coworker are experiencing any of these symptoms, leave the area and get medical attention immediately.
Ventilate & Check for Leaks
To minimize these dangers, there are a couple of things you should do when working with propane.
For one, you should only refuel your lift truck outside or in a well-ventilated area inside.
For another, be sure to check for leaks in the tank as well as the forklift’s fuel line during installation.
And, make it a point to schedule regular lift truck maintenance.
Regular maintenance can catch problems like leaking fuel or exhaust lines
That way, any leaks in the exhaust and fuel systems can be caught early and fixed.
Now you understand the dangers of propane - and what you can do to minimize them.
So let’s go through the process for safely changing a forklift propane tank.
A Quick Word of Caution
Changing a propane tank can be dangerous if done improperly. Only trained and authorized personnel should change out LP tanks.
This guide is intended only as an informational overview of proper procedures. It is not a replacement for forklift operator safety training.
Prefer video? Just click below to watch the whole process!
1. Put On Your Safety Equipment
As discussed above, this means gloves made of neoprene or rubber, safety glasses, steel toe shoes, and a long-sleeve shirt at a minimum.
2. Secure the Forklift
First, make sure the shift selector is in the "neutral" position.
Second, set the parking brake.
Depending on the manufacturer, your forklift’s parking brake may be foot-operated or hand-operated. And in some cases, the parking brake may be automatically applied when you get off the seat.
Last, make sure that the forks are lowered so they rest completely on the ground.
That way, you won't run the risk of unsuspecting people bumping into the forks.
3. Evacuate the Fuel Line
Shut the gas off by turning the tank screw knob clockwise until it's tight.
Then, turn the forklift on and let it run until it shuts off by itself.
This step removes any extra gas that's in the line, eliminating the possibility of blowback when you unscrew the LP line coupler from the tank.
Once the forklift has run out of gas, try starting the forklift once more. This step is your double-check to make sure the line is empty.
If it does start, make sure you've completely closed the valve. If it doesn't start, turn the key to the "off" position.
4. Disconnect the LP Fuel Hose
No tools are needed for this step. Simply unscrew it.
5. Remove the Empty LP Tank
The latch holding the tank down may be a bit difficult to undo. So use your body weight if the latch is very tightly secured.
Once unlatched, remove the empty tank. Use two hands here - the tank itself weighs roughly 35 lbs.
6. Install the Full Tank
Lift carefully using proper form, as a full tank can weigh between 40 and 84 lbs.
Then, rotate the tank within the bracket. You want to line the slot in the tank collar up with the screw in the bracket. This will lock the tank into place. When positioned properly, the propane tankpressure relief valve should point upward.
7. Connect the LP Coupler
First, make sure that the valve on the new tank is closed. If you don't, you could be sprayed with LP when making the connection. So, give the knob a twist clockwise to double-check that it’s tight.
Second, take the fuel line coupler and screw it onto the valve. Turn it clockwise until tight.
8. Secure the Full Tank
Once in place, pull the latch over the tank and secure it. This may be hard. Use your body weight if necessary.
Some forklifts have an adjustable tank latch. Simply loosen the nut holding the latch, then loosen the latch itself until you've got enough slack to secure the tank. Then, tighten the nut and you're set.
9. Turn the Gas On
Turn the tank screw knob counterclockwise until you can't anymore. Generally, you'll hear a soft hissing noise that lasts for one to three seconds while opening the valve. Hearing this will let you know you have proper gas flow.
10. Listen, Smell, and Look for Leaks
If you hear a rushing sound, notice a smell similar to rotten eggs or see white frost, you likely have a leak.
If you do detect a leak, close the valve immediately and ventilate the area to prevent combustion. And make sure to tag out the defective tank.
You can use a solution of dish soap and water in a spray bottle to inspect your tank or fuel lines for leaks. Just spray the tank or fuel line. The solution will bubble if there's a leak.
What Are OSHA’s Forklift Propane Tank Storage Requirements?
OSHA has many standards on this topic.
But here’s the gist:
Tanks must be protected from damage, heat, and tampering
Outlet valves should be closed
The amount of gas stored indoors shouldn't exceed 300 lbs. (unless it's within a specialized storage area)
Tanks can only be stored indoors if it's not a publicly-accessible building
Tanks stored indoors should be kept away from exits, entries, staircases, and walkways(Video) Forklift Propane Tank Change
Tanks stored outdoors must be kept a safe distance away from buildings and walkways
To review the complete list of rules, check out OSHA's web page under section 1910.110(f).
Protecting your tanks is a lot easier when you invest in an OSHA-compliant propane storage cage.
Buy an OSHA-compliant propane tank cage to protect your tanks
What is the Lifespan of a Forklift Propane Tank?
According to Propane101.com, tanks must be re-certified 12 years from the date of manufacture.
Then, they must be re-certified every 5 years after that.
Now, there are a few ways to help ensure your propane tanks pass the inspection, including:
Ensuring that they're protected from accidental damage during storage
Taking care during transport to avoid denting and damage
Keeping them painted and away from water-prone areas to reduce rust
And considering that a single new tank can cost $200 or more, it certainly pays to extend their life as much as possible.
How Do You Exchange Your Forklift Propane Tanks?
If you're just starting in business, or switching to propane-powered forklifts, you're probably wondering how to get your tanks refilled on a regular basis.
Local propane vendors, as well as national companies, offer a range of plans to keep you supplied.
And fortunately, it's pretty simple.
Typically, the company will come to your location and switch out your tanks for new ones.
You can sign up with a local or national propane company to get your tanks refilled or exchanged
But many also offer on-site refilling at your location.
That way, you can keep your own tanks.
Regardless of which plan you choose, the company will monitor your usage then schedule refills automatically.
Ferrellgas and AmeriGas are two of the most popular national propane vendors.
But if you prefer to work with a local company, simply google "propane vendors near me" or "propane vendors + your city."
Where Can You Sell Your Forklift Propane Tanks?
If you're looking to get rid of your used tanks, your best bet is to contact a propane vendor.
As mentioned, Ferrellgas and AmeriGas are two popular national companies that you can contact.
Otherwise, follow the instructions above to find local vendors.
Now We'd Like To Hear From You
There you have it:
Our 10-step guide on how to safely change a forklift propane tank.
Now we'd like to hear from you...
Which item on this checklist did you not know about before?
What are you going to do differently in your tank-changing process going forward?
Let us know by leaving a comment down below.
How do you change propane tank? ›
Come in here around the back of your grill. And make sure that the propane valve is off so there'sHow do you put propane in a forklift? ›
Once it is connected open the valve by turning it counterclockwise. And to close it you will turn itCan you refill a forklift propane tank? ›
Refueling a propane forklift is simple and quick. Just unscrew the empty cylinder, screw in a full one, and you're ready to get back to work—no spills, no hassles, no recharging, and no downtime.What fitting is on a forklift propane tank? ›
These fittings include: relief valves, bleeder valves, forklift service valves, float gauges, and filler valves. Service valves on a forklift bottle communicate with the liquid space of the cylinder but can often be converted to be used in vapor service for applications requiring LP Gas vapor.Which way does a propane tank unscrew? ›
Place the open jaws of the crescent wrench over the large bolt of the tank's gas regulator. This is located at the meeting point of the propane tank and the gas regulator. Use the thumbscrew to grip the jaws around the large nut. Twist the wrench in a clockwise direction to loosen up the connection.Can you swap out an old propane tank? ›
Propane Tank Disposal Made Easy
Exchanging your old propane tank for a refilled one is the easiest way to dispose of it, but if you need to get rid of it for good- you can also just drop it off at most propane refill or exchange locations.
- Park the lift and close the fuel line valve on the cylinder. ...
- Shut off the ignition.
- Put on protective gloves.
- Disconnect the hose and the holding straps, and lift the empty cylinder free.
- Replace the empty cylinder with a full one.
A steel forklift cylinder weighs approximately 35 pounds when empty and 69 pounds when full. An aluminum forklift tank, on the other hand, weighs only 23 pounds when empty and 56 pounds when full.How many gallons of propane does a forklift tank hold? ›
About 90% of forklifts use an eight gallon (33 pound) tank of liquid propane. If your LPG forklift has a four-cylinder engine, the tank should last about eight hours. Bigger engines reduce fuel efficiency, just like cars.Do forklift propane tanks expire? ›
A forklift propane tank with a capacity of 100 lbs. or less expires within 12 years of manufacture. Following the tank's expiration date, it can typically be exchanged for a replacement. Or, the tank can be inspected for requalification for five years.
Can I fill my own propane tank? ›
Depending on the type of propane tank you have, you may be able to fill it on your own when it's empty from a larger supply tank. Before you fill your propane tank, be sure to check that the tank is in good condition and that filling it yourself is legal in your area.How many hours does a propane tank last on a forklift? ›
On average, a 33-pound propane tank (the size used in the vast majority of forklifts) will last about eight hours. That's an entire work shift without your forklift driver having to stop work to refuel. That power also doesn't fade. Forklifts that run on electricity will gradually lose power as the battery drains.Do propane tanks have different connectors? ›
The hose is the connection between the propane tank regulator and the propane appliance. There are multiple types of propane hoses, with different fittings on the end meant to work with different types of regulators and appliances.Are forklift propane tanks Universal? ›
Note: Forklift tanks are "universal" meaning they can be mounted either vertical or horizontal and will still provide service as designed. Some mounting brackets for smaller tanks are designed for vertical mounting of the tank. The majority however are mounted horizontally.Are all propane tank connectors the same? ›
It's no wonder propane fittings can be so confusing. There are half a dozen different types, and they all do different things. Some connect to your regulator, some connect directly to your tank, and some are found on hoses, T-fittings, and adapters.Are propane tanks threaded backwards? ›
Propane tanks use reverse threads for connections.Are propane tanks righty tighty? ›
You need to know how to use the shutoff valve so you can properly turn off the gas at the tank during an emergency or leak. Follow the “lefty loosie; righty tighty” rule and turn the valve clockwise to fully shut off the gas.Are LP tanks reverse threaded? ›
Propane tanks are reverse threaded (or “left-hand” threaded). It's a built-in safety measure to make sure you connect it properly every time you use it. You can't make the wrong line connection because it won't work with other types of connections (oxygen lines, for example).How much does it cost to swap out a 20 lb propane tank? ›
How Much Does a 20 LB Propane Tank Cost? An empty propane tank can be purchased for about $35 – $60, depending on the brand, features, and quality. Having a built-in gas meter gauge usually increases the price by about $20 but may save you a lot of hassle in the long run since refilling too soon is a common issue.How does propane exchange Work at Home Depot? ›
How to exchange your propane tank at home depot - YouTube
Do you have to do anything to a new propane tank? ›
National safety codes state that new tanks may contain water, air, or other contaminants, and that it is essential that these be removed before filling the container for the first time and placing it into service. Do not take your new tank to a gas station or the average R/V dealer for this first time purging service.Is it better to exchange propane tank or refill? ›
You can save up to $1.75 per gallon by refilling over the cost of an exchange at third-party retailers. You'll only pay for the propane you use if you own your own propane tank. Any propane left in your tank isn't lost as it is during an exchange –and even if it's a small amount, it'll return home with you.