SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety
Many industries use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
to operate their machinery, heat their places of
employment or use it for their industrial truck
operations or other industrial use. LPG is also used by
many people in their homes for their BBQ or for running
What is LPG?
Liquefied petroleum gas is a colourless odourless liquid,
which readily evaporates into a gas. Normally an odorant
has been added to it to help detect leaks. LPG (either
Butane or Propane) is generally stored and distributed as
a liquid and it is widely used for process and space heating,
cooking and automotive propulsion. It is classified as
highly flammable and if it contains more than 0.1%
Butadiene, it is also classified as a carcinogen and mutagen.
LPG is non-corrosive but can dissolve lubricants, certain
plastics or synthetic rubbers.
What are the dangers of LPG?
LPG may leak as a gas or a liquid. If the liquid leaks it will
quickly evaporate and form a relatively large cloud of gas,
which will drop to the ground, as it is heavier than air. LPG
vapours can run for long distances along the ground and
can collect in drains or basements. When the gas meets a
source of ignition it can burn or explode. Cylinders can
explode if involved in a fire and LPG can cause cold burns
to the skin and it can asphyxiate at high concentrations.
How do you work safely with LPG?
Identify the LPG cylinders used in your workplace. These
may be propane, acetylene, butane, or propane/butane
mixture. If you use this article for a safety meeting topic,
then bring a cylinder of the most-used LPG to the discussion
area. If cylinders are not available or difficult to bring,
you can use photographs as visual aids. Identify, and bring
with you, the material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for all
LP gases used by your company. Check the areas where
LPG cylinders are stored for your location, and note any
problems in the storage area.
A variety of industries use LPG cylinders for many applications.
Storage and handling of these cylinders depends upon
the type, size and use. A few storage and handling requirements
apply to all these cylinders. Of primary interest is the
flammability of LPG at temperatures between 0 and 120°F.
This safety topic will discuss the storage and handling of
portable cylinders smaller than 100-pound gross weight.
Most liquefied petroleum gases used in industry are not
classified as toxic. The greatest hazard in working with
these cylinders is the risk of fire or explosion.
Common uses for LPG include: acetylene for welding
and cutting is dissolved in acetone to reduce the chances
of auto-polymerization. This allows high-volume storage of
acetylene at low pressures; propane for lift truck motor
fuel is normally mounted horizontally in a specially
designed bracket. Specific training is required to avoid
mis-mounting the cylinder; propane used for other motor
fuels may be attached for use of the liquid or the gas portion
of the fuel. Cylinders designed for use of liquid fuel
and those designed for using the fuel as a gas must be
stored separately; propane/butane mixtures for utility and
construction site heaters are in 20-pound cylinders that
commonly have no specific brackets. These must be
secured in an upright position to avoid tipping over.
Review with the group the types of LPG cylinders used.
Ask where the LPG cylinders are stored in your workplace,
and add any storage areas not mentioned by the group.
Review the reasons the cylinders are stored in these areas.
Go over the fire protection, security and inspection of the
areas. NFPA recommends a fire extinguisher of 18 pounds
of agent or more for cylinder storage areas. For security,
always lock cages or storage rooms with controlled keys.
Ask the group where is it not safe to store LPG cylinders.
Add that NFPA says they should not be stored on roofs, in
ways of exit, under or on stairways, in areas of public
access or near sources of ignition.
Ask the group how they get an LPG cylinder when they
need one. Recognize the correct answers and review the
- Who has access?
- How to transport the cylinder to the point of use.
- Always check the cylinder for leaks (by odor), and have
the safety pressure release valve at the vapour space of
the cylinder (as marked on the cylinder). It must be
secured against dropping or rolling, and must never be
carried by holding onto the valve or connecting port.
Ask the group what you should check for when connecting
a cylinder. Possible answers include:
- Oil, grease, dirt or corrosion on the connections.
- Damaged connections or connecting hoses.
- Damaged mounting brackets.
- An odor after the cylinder is attached. If the odor persists,
the connection is leaking.
Ask the group what you should do if the connection is
leaking when a fresh cylinder is being attached.
- For minor leaks, back off the connection and reseat the
- For a large leak, or if the second attempt fails, remove
the cylinder, mark it as defective and try another.
- Observe caution to avoid freezing the skin from contact
with the gas or liquid.
Go over the storage areas with the group. Note the reasons
the storage areas are located as they are. Review the
answers given in the discussion, and reinforce the most
important points, such as: inspection of the cylinder
before use, care in transporting the cylinder, testing for
leaks when attaching a fresh cylinder, and avoiding
sources of ignition in the storage
area and when connecting a cylinder.
Address any concerns expressed
by the group, and follow up the
meeting with answers that are not
Ask the group to inspect the cylinders
(or photographs) used as training
aids, and take down any comments
or questions they may have.
Have the group review any MSDSs
you brought to the meeting.
Ask the group to look over the
storage area when they are nearby,
and think through the next time they
might need to change a cylinder.
Have the members of the group
who do not normally change cylinders
observe others as they perform
the task correctly.
Always check a cylinder for leaks
(by odor), and have the safety pressure
release valve at the vapour
space of the cylinder (as marked on
the cylinder). It must be secured
against dropping or rolling, and
must never be carried by holding
onto the valve or connecting port.
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