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Understanding the risks when fitting LPG vessels to forklifts

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article image Safety alert on the danger involved in fitting forklifts with automotive LPG vessels

Australian Forklift Training provides a safety alert on the danger involved in fitting forklifts with automotive LPG vessels.

WorkCover NSW recently responded to an incident where a forklift caught fire after being fitted with the wrong type of LPG vessel.

The forklift had been fitted with an automotive vessel that was removed from a decommissioned taxi for the purpose of using the remaining LPG in the vessel before disposal. This resulted in a fire, causing serious injuries to the forklift operator. The forklift was destroyed and the workplace also sustained serious fire damage.

This incident highlights the danger associated with the use of LPG vessels and plant for which they are not designed.

Safety alert: Work health and safety requirements

Work health and safety legislation requires that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that plant handling LPG is without risk to health and safety.

The PCBU should ensure: plant is only used for the purpose for which it was designed, unless a competent person has determined that alternative use does not increase the risk; plant is installed, tested, inspected, maintained and operated by competent persons and is deemed to be without risks to health and safety; and sufficient information, training and instruction is given to persons who install operate, test, inspect, maintain or decommission plant.

Vessels that have contained hazardous chemicals such as LPG should be freed from those chemicals before disposal. Clauses 204, 206, 365 and 363 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 provide specific direction in relation to these requirements.

Risk controls

Modifications to plant should comply with relevant Australian Standards or engineering principles and the manufacturer’s requirements. Any alterations must also be completed by competent persons.

The PCBU must ensure that the appropriate LPG vessel is used for its intended application; the LPG vessel is appropriately secured; the LPG vessel is correctly orientated to ensure the safety valve is in communication with gas vapour space; the fuel system electrical safety solenoids are not overridden, bypassed or defeated; fuel system fill points are secure; fuel system fittings are secure and leak tested accordingly; and fuel system components are suitable and fit for purpose.

More information is available in the draft Safe Work Australia model code of practice – Managing the risks of plant in the workplace.

Guidance for the installation, testing, commissioning and periodic inspection of LPG fuel systems for forklifts can be found in Australian Standard AS 4983-2010: Gas fuel systems for forklifts and industrial engines.

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