Safety alert: Fire hazards in LPG-powered forklift trucks

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has observed a series of fires involving liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) powered forklift trucks and similar vehicles during the starting process. These incidents have been attributed to the accumulation of deposits within the fuel systems, specifically the vaporiser units of LPG-powered vehicles.

So, what’s the issue?

The formation of deposits in the vaporiser units, flow regulators, and shut-off valves has led to ignition failures when starting LPG-powered trucks, especially in cold conditions. The deposits can cause valves to stick and lead to an excessively rich mixture, which can’t be ignited properly.

Attempts to repeatedly restart the engine may lead to a build-up of unburned LPG in some cases, which could cause ignition and then vehicle fires involving the vehicle and the surrounding area.

What you need to do

Vehicle operators:

  1. Conduct a thorough review of your safe work system for your LPG-powered forklift trucks and similar vehicles.
  2. Provide comprehensive information, instruction, and training to all operators regarding the hazards highlighted in this safety alert.
  3. Park LPG vehicles in well-ventilated areas that are free from flammable materials, particularly when parking overnight or for extended periods.

If your forklift truck fails to start within the normal few seconds:

  • Don’t continue cranking the engine using the starter.
  • Avoid repeating the regular engine starting procedure.
  • Don’t spray volatile substances into the air intake to assist in starting.
  • Climb off the truck and close the shut-off valve to isolate the gas bottle.
  • Secure the truck to prevent further attempts to start by removing the keys or other means.
  • Ensure the area is adequately ventilated.
  • Don’t attempt to troubleshoot or repair the problem yourself – instead, arrange for a competent maintenance engineer to inspect the LPG system.

For service and maintenance engineers:

If you encounter an LPG-powered truck with a starting problem:

  • Don’t follow the standard starting procedure.
  • Isolate the LPG supply by closing the shut-off valve.
  • Make sure the area is well-ventilated.
  • Disconnect the battery.
  • Release any trapped LPG pressure in the fuel supply system.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for inspecting the LPG system.

Take appropriate precautions when working with LPG as it can be hazardous, and make sure that your risk assessments and controls consider things like the flammability and cold temperature of LPG. Once released, LPG is heavier than air and can accumulate in low-lying areas, where it can ignite upon contact with any ignition source, including static electricity, electrical sparks, and hot surfaces.

See the original HSE alert here.

Got any questions?

As always, if you’ve got any questions about this or any other Health & Safety matters, simply call your 24/7 Health & Safety advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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