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Propane Forklift Operators: Do You Know All These Cylinder Safety Tips?

Many material handling professionals are finding propane to be the most versatile, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly energy solution for their forklift fleet. In fact, 90 percent of Class 4 and 5 forklifts run on propane, according to data from the Propane Education & Research Council.

Like any energy source, there are specific safety considerations for crews to keep in mind when operating any propane equipment, including the workhorse of the warehouse — forklifts. Propane cylinders are constructed with high industry standards for quality and contain additional safety features — like pressure relief valves —making them safe and easy to use. That being said, not following the proper safety practices can result in injuries and lost productivity.

For crews operating propane-powered equipment, be sure to review these step-by-step safety considerations when handling cylinders:

General propane cylinder handling best practices

  1. Wear protective gloves.
  2. Keep open heat, flames, and ignition sources away from cylinders and refueling equipment at all times.
  3. Handle cylinders carefully, making sure not to drop, throw, or drag them.
  4. Use proper lifting techniques when lifting cylinders.

How to remove a propane cylinder from equipment

  1. Shut the gas off by turning cylinder service valve until tight (clockwise).
  2. Disconnect the gas line by unscrewing the service connection (counterclockwise). A small amount of gas may be released from the gas line upon disconnection.
  3. Release the brackets that hold the propane cylinder.
  4. Remove the empty forklift cylinder by using safe lifting practices.
  5. Store the empty cylinder in its designated storage area. Make sure to store with the relief valve at the highest point.

Don’t forget: A propane cylinder storage rack should be located a safe distance from heat or ignition sources and protected from exposure to the elements. A business’ local propane supplier can help crews identify the best location.

Proper propane cylinder installation techniques

  1. Inspect the cylinder for any damage.
  2. Ensure the main service valve on the full cylinder is all the way off.
  3. Use safe lifting practices to place the full cylinder on the forklift. The cylinder should be centered in the brackets and in alignment with the alignment pin (with the pressure relief valve at the 12 o’clock position).
  4. Once it’s properly situated, secure the cylinder by tightening the brackets. Make sure the straps are secure before operating.
  5. Connect the gas line to the service connection and tighten firmly (clockwise).
  6. Turn the main service valve on (counterclockwise).
  7. Check for leaks. Forklift operators can check for leaks by spraying a solution (one part soap, one part water) over the tank connections. If employees notice bubbling or smell any gas, they should turn the valve off and re-check the connection and O-rings.

Rely on a local propane supplier

Propane users have a valuable safety resource at their fingertips: local propane suppliers. Depending which refueling option businesses choose, propane suppliers can teach forklift operators how to refill cylinders themselves (on-site refueling) or can refill cylinders for them (cylinder exchange program). Employees can also receive safety training from propane suppliers, including instruction on how to safely install propane cylinders on their equipment.

Additionally, propane suppliers can inspect cylinders each time they’re exchanged, remove damaged cylinders from service, and repair or replace leaky valves and O-rings on cylinders as needed.

To learn more about forklift safety, visit

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

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