Liquid propane (LP) is a common fuel used to drive forklifts. Its flammable and explosive nature makes it quite dangerous if handled improperly, and the same can be said about the forklift's LP tank. In addition, it’s quite corrosive and can easily damage your eyes and skin. LP in the tank is highly pressurized (-40°F) to enhance its operation.
It’s also worth mentioning that high concentration of propane can lead to dizziness and suffocation. So, if you're planning to replace the current tank in your forklift, it’s imperative that you follow the right procedures. This article aims to discuss how to safely change a forklift propane tank, starting with the PPE requirements.
1. Pre-Task Safety Precautions
Of course, before you start a task of this nature, it's only reasonable that you begin with the safety measures. First, you must ensure that you have the necessary personal protection equipment (PPE). You'll need safety glasses, steel-toed shoes, and thick leather gloves. Also, make sure you put on a long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin from coming into contact with this liquid.
Since you're dealing with a substance that can easily suffocate the user, you'll need to set up an open-air workstation. This way, there'll be free circulation of fresh air, hence reducing the risks posed to your respiratory system. Also, it’s very important that you stay away from ignition sources. This is a highly flammable liquid, so it can be triggered by the smallest of sparks.
The final pre-task safety measure is to secure the forklift. Move the shift selector to the ‘neutral’ position, and set the parking brake (foot or hand-operated depending on the manufacturer). Also, ensure that the forks are lowered before commencing your day’s work to avoid accidents.
2. Empty The Fuel Line
Once everything is in place, it’s time to make sure that the tank and the immediate fuel line is empty. This will enhance the safety of the whole task. First, you'll need to tightly close the valve on the cylinder, then, run the machine's engine to use up as much fuel in the line as possible. Wait until the engine stops on its own before shutting it off.
Some of the fuel may remain along the line of the fittings even after the engine cuts off. So, you must ensure that it’s all removed to avoid being sprayed by this flammable and quite dangerous liquid when you’re deep into the task.
3. Remove The Tank
If you’re confident that all the fuel has been used up or discharged, you can move on to the next step. Of course, before removing the tank, you'll need to disconnect the liquid propane fuel hose. This is a straightforward procedure for anyone if done correctly. No tools are needed here—you just have to turn the nut open. Remember to wear protective gloves before embarking on this task since there could be leaks that might damage your skin.
Once the hose is out, disconnect the straps to free the tank. Now, gently remove the empty tank from the forklift. Before moving the cylinder to the storage facility, make sure to inspect it for leakages (do the same for the hose and fitting), dents, frost, or heavy amounts of rust. Such damages could have severe repercussions on the users, like explosion.
4. Install The New Cylinder
It’s worth noting that a full propane cylinder can weigh anywhere between 40 and 84lbs. Therefore, you must take a lot of care when lifting it, or ask for help if it's too much for you. Put the tank on the locating pin and rotate it within the bracket. The slot on the tank's collar should be in line with screw in the bracket as this is what will hold the cylinder in place. Always make sure that the propane valve is off to avoid unnecessary accidents that could prove fatal in the long run.
Remember, the propane valve should face upwards if the installation is done correctly. With the tank tightly held in place and with no open valve, you can now screw the hose in place without having to worry about leakages. Turn the coupler clockwise until it’s tight enough to do the job.
5. Test Your Work
Finally, you can check your work to see if all the parts are in their right positions. Slowly open the valve and observe how the whole system reacts. Take note that any leaks, even those that seem negligible, should not be assumed since you might be a victim of fire damages whether at home or in your place of work. In other words, your tank and fuel line should have zero leaks. In case of any issue, make sure to close the valve as quickly as possible.
How will you check for the leaks? Well, it’s simple and you might not need special equipment. You can either use a soap or buy a leak detector (recommended). If you opt for the soap solution, put it in a spray bottle and spritz it on the fuel line and the tank. You'll see a bubble if there is a leak somewhere.
Keep in mind that your smelling, seeing, and listening senses will still play a huge role in the process. If you hear a rushing sound, see a white frost, or smell a bad odor, that should be an indication that there’s a leakage. Take the necessary precautions to alleviate this problem. In case there are no signs of any leaks, double-check all parts before resuming the normal operation.
Propane is a very dangerous substance that could cause unprecedented accidents if not handled with care. As such, when replacing the LP tank, it’s imperative that you put on the necessary protective gear. Also, make sure you are working in a highly-ventilated area to avoid combustion and suffocation. The first step is to always empty the cylinder and the fuel line before removing the tank. Installing a new tank also requires that you take the necessary precautionary measures. Before running the engine, make sure there are no leaks at all in the system as this could be very dangerous.