Scenario: You are the safety director for a small manufacturing plant. Your company has propane tanks for your forklifts stored in a lockable cage system outside your facility. You returned to work on Monday to discover that thieves had come in over the weekend with a set of bolt cutters and absconded with a number of your propane tanks for the second time in two months. The company owner comes to you and says the company decided to move the propane tank cage inside the building. You are not so sure this is a good idea when it comes to safe storage of propane tanks, and you scour the OSHA standard powered industrial truck section to see if this is permissible by OSHA standards. After spending countless hours searching in the book and on-line, you can’t find anything that says you cannot keep the cage inside. So, you assume it is ok and allow the tank cage to be moved. A week later OSHA shows up for a programmed inspection.
Question: Are you going to receive a citation for storing full propane tanks inside your facility?
Answer: So you scoured the OSHA General Industry Powered Industrial Truck section of the standard and you could not find anything that said you couldn’t store propane tanks in your facility, and you are right. But there is something on propane gas storage regulations if you go to 29cfr1910.110 Storage and handling of liquefied petroleum gases you will find your answer. 1910.110(f) covers storage of containers awaiting use or resale. So if we look at (f)(4) Storage within buildings not frequented by the public (such as industrial buildings). Section (i) states “The quantity of LP-Gas stored shall not exceed 300 pounds (approximately 2,550 cubic feet in vapor form) except as provided in subparagraph (5) of this paragraph”.
Assuming a typical propane tank used for forklifts holds in the neighborhood of about 33-pounds of propane you could only have about nine of these tanks in the storage cage before you would exceed the 300 pound limit. However, you need to be aware that (f)(2)(v) states empty containers which have been in LP-Gas service when stored inside, shall be considered as full containers for the purpose of determining the maximum quantity of LP-Gas permitted by this paragraph.
Make sure you also keep the propane at least 20 feet from flammable liquids and from highly combustible materials and similar substances. They also cannot be near arcing electrical equipment, open flames, or other sources of ignition. The standard also states these cylinders shall not be located near exits, near stairways, or in areas normally used, or intended to be used for the safe exit of occupants.
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