Equipment

Three Safety Myths About Propane-Powered Construction Equipment

Propane is commonplace on jobsites, powering everything from jobsite heaters to scissor lifts. While many contractors are familiar with this energy source, misinformation still exists about propane—especially with regard to its safety.
By Matt McDonald
December 2, 2020
Topics
Equipment

Propane is commonplace on jobsites around the country, powering everything from jobsite heaters to scissor lifts. While many construction professionals are familiar with this energy source, misinformation still exists about propane—especially with regard to its safety.

The truth of the matter is propane is a clean, safe and reliable energy source. As long as employees follow proper safety procedures, propane-powered equipment has a reputation for keeping crews productive day after day.

Contractors should not let these three common propane myths hold them back from an efficient operation.

Myth: Propane is a volatile energy source.

Fact: Propane is a safe energy source.

Propane tanks are 20 times more puncture resistant than traditional fuel containers and propane containers and equipment have been specially engineered with redundant, proven, safety components.

Propane has a much narrower range of flammability and a much higher ignition temperature than some other energy sources, as well as the lowest flammability rating of any alternative fuel, which reduces the likelihood that propane will ignite unintentionally.

Propane suppliers are dedicated to the safety of their propane customers and have highly trained employees that can offer support in a variety of ways including installing, inspecting, and replacing propane systems and containers.

Myth: Propane is bad for the environment.

Fact: Propane is a clean, low-emissions energy source.

Propane is a low-carbon alternative fuel that can produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, gasoline and electricity in a wide range of applications. According to data from the Propane Education & Research Council, propane-powered small-engine jobsite applications can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 17%, sulfur oxide emissions by up to 16%, and carbon monoxide emissions by up to 50% compared with gasoline-fueled models. The emissions reduction of propane equipment can help support healthier air quality for employees and the community. Some projects may be located in areas that require reduced emissions, or may be located near sensitive populations like schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

Many professionals assume that electric equipment is the answer to a cleaner, greener future. They may be surprised to learn that propane has an environmental edge over electricity, too. While battery-powered equipment produces zero emissions during normal operation, it’s easy to forget to consider its full emissions profile. This includes the emissions produced in the manufacturing, transportation and disposal of batteries, as well as the emissions produced at power plants where electricity is generated—many of which are still coal-fired.

Additionally, propane is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as nontoxic and a noncontaminant of air, water and soil, so it doesn’t have negligible effects on the ozone layer or pose an environmental hazard to drinking water or marine ecosystems. Diesel and gasoline, on the other hand, contain harmful chemicals and can quickly contaminate groundwater beyond drinking water health advisory levels.

Myth: Propane can’t be used indoors.

Fact: Propane is safe to operate indoors and outside.

An approved clean alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990, propane-powered equipment is safe to operate in a properly ventilated indoor environment. Propane is nontoxic, colorless and virtually odorless, making it a versatile fuel that can be used for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications. Well-maintained propane engines actually meet or exceed nationwide indoor air quality standards, while gasoline and diesel models produce higher amounts of carbon monoxide.

by Matt McDonald
Matt McDonald is the director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at matt.mcdonald@propane.com. To learn more about the benefits of propane for light construction equipment, visit Propane.com. Visit Propane.com for more information on propane-powered construction equipment. To download safety resources from PERC, visit Propane.com/Construction-Safety.

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