Indoor Air Quality is a Critical Safety Issue — How Can Propane Help?

Propane forklifts improve air quality, employee health

When material handling professionals think of safety, they typically think of buckling up, wearing required PPE, and following proper operating procedures. While these are all critical to employees’ safety on a day-to-day basis, there’s another key element to safety that’s often overlooked: indoor air quality.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths a day. The air in warehouses and distribution centers plays an important role in employees’ health and productivity. Crews working in warehouses are exposed to a variety of chemicals and pollutants and while these may be invisible, they can have a serious impact on the health and safety of employees. Ongoing exposure can cause respiratory issues and potentially lead to time off for sick leave, indirectly affecting business.

As businesses look for ways to create a safer and healthier environment for employees, they should consider the equipment being operated on a daily basis, as well as the energy sources that power that equipment. Operations across the country rely on forklifts to efficiently move materials and handle the heavy lifting. Propane-powered forklifts can provide a clean, safe solution for a wide variety of material handling professionals.

Propane is a clean fuel

Switching to propane-powered equipment is an immediate and effective way for businesses to improve their impact on the environment. Propane is a low-carbon energy source that can produce significantly fewer full fuel cycle greenhouse gas emissions than diesel and electricity in a wide range of applications, including forklifts. Propane is also non-poisonous, non-toxic and doesn’t contaminate soil or groundwater, making it safe to use anywhere. Additionally, propane is an approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990.

Propane forklifts have an environmental edge over other options

Propane technologies produce fewer nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions — which can both cause respiratory ailments — than technologies powered by diesel or electricity, according to data from the Propane Education & Research Council and Gas Technology Institute.

Most notably, propane forklifts reduce SOx emissions by 76 percent compared with electric — whose full emissions profile is often overlooked. Electric equipment produces zero emissions during normal operation, but many professionals forget to consider the site-to-source emissions linked to electricity. Site-to-source emissions include those produced during the creation and transmission of electric batteries, including the emissions produced at coal-fired power plants.

Propane forklifts are cleaner and more versatile than diesel equipment, as diesel isn’t suited for indoor operations. Diesel isn’t fit for indoor use because it produces particulate matter and gases that require ventilation or open-air structures. In addition, the combustion of hydrocarbons, like those from diesel fuel, can result in carbon monoxide pollution. Propane equipment, on the other hand, prevents employees from getting carbon monoxide poisoning.

Propane equipment offers easy refueling, maintenance

Propane offers a few key perks, making operation cleaner and more convenient for employees. For example, forklift operators don’t have to worry about handling heavy, messy batteries and can avoid chemical spills from lead-acid battery-powered forklifts. With propane, they can simply swap out an empty propane cylinder for a full one and get straight back to work.

Plus, businesses can avoid the dirty process of battery disposal. When an electric forklift battery goes dead, employees can’t simply dispose of them without negatively impacting the environment. Because they are considered a hazardous material by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they have specific handling and disposal regulations attached. And in many cases, proper disposal or reconditioning of the battery can be a costly proposition for businesses.

Propane-powered equipment can help businesses ensure a clean, efficient operation without sacrificing the health of their crews. Visit to learn more about propane forklifts.

Matt McDonaldMatt McDonald is the director of off-road business development at the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at

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