10 Safety Reminders for Managing Propane on Construction Jobsites

These reminders can keep crews safe and in command around propane-powered light construction equipment.

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Propane Education & Research Council

We know that construction professionals work in a variety of environments, but regardless of the type of jobsite, safety is paramount. Construction Safety Week provides an opportunity for professionals to recognize and reinforce the practices and procedures that keep them safe.

A component of safety that can often be overlooked is safety related to the fuels being used on site. One alternative fuel that’s becoming more commonplace on jobsites around the country is propane. Because of its versatility, propane can power everything from jobsite heaters and portable generators to power buggies and concrete grinders and polishers. That is why it’s important for crews to be familiar with safety procedures related to this energy source.

Here are 10 key safety reminders to share with crews so they remain safe and in command around propane-powered light construction equipment:

  1. Make sure that everyone on site is familiar with propane safety procedures and knows how to identify a propane leak. Propane is naturally odorless and nontoxic, so processors add a chemical odorant called ethyl mercaptan to help users detect leaks. If employees get a whiff of rotten eggs, you likely have a leak. Turn off the propane supply and call your propane supplier.
  2. Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can include headache, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and confusion. Fortunately, almost all new indoor use equipment has a carbon monoxide detector onboard. If you are using temporary propane heaters and equipment in a closed indoor area, just make sure that equipment is designed for indoor use. 
  3. Keep temporary propane containers at least 10 feet from ignition sources, combustible materials (such as lumber and brush), air intakes and building structures.
  4. Always keep cylinders in the upright position on a flat, stable, fireproof base. 
  5. Use crash protection and bollards to prevent potential damage or denting to propane equipment, cylinders or containers.
  6. Follow proper refueling procedures. When refilling propane cylinders on site, safely do so outdoors or in an approved filling area and with the proper PPE. 
  7. Keep a propane cylinder’s pressure relief valve clean, unrestricted, set to the 12 o’clock position and directed upward at a 45-degree angle when the cylinder is mounted horizontally. The pressure relief valve provides overpressure protection to the cylinder.
  8. Close the service valves on propane cylinders when not in use. Turn them clockwise until completely closed to prevent unintended fuel loss and potential injury.
  9. Store cylinders in a secure rack or cage. They should be protected from sunlight and rain.
  10. Lean on your propane supplier. Your supplier can work with you to ensure the proper placement and handling of propane equipment.

Let Your Supplier Be Your Guide

Propane may require a few specific safety and handling procedures, but it also comes with several built-in safety perks. By operating propane-powered equipment, crews have a safety resource at their fingertips: their local propane supplier. Propane suppliers have dedicated procedures in place to support customers and can ensure crews are properly trained to work with this energy source.

Crews operating propane equipment have many safe choices for refueling, too, and their propane supplier will act as their safety and training guide. A propane cylinder exchange program occurs when a propane supplier delivers full cylinders and exchanges them for the empty cylinders on site. On-site refueling occurs when members of the construction team refills cylinders themselves after being trained properly by the propane supplier.

Additionally, propane suppliers inspect cylinders each time they're exchanged and remove damaged cylinders from service. At this time, suppliers can repair and replace leaky valves and O-rings on the cylinders as needed. Suppliers can also help crews identify the most convenient location for their cylinder cages. Lastly, some propane suppliers offer additional safety training opportunities for forklift customers.

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