Guarantee RV Blog

Standards and Regulations of Propane Safety

Propane is a widely used fuel made to power household appliances such as fridges, stoves, furnaces and outdoor equipment like barbeques, portable heaters and appliances in RVs. Being knowledgeable about the proper use and handling of propane is the key to safety especially in an enclosed space such as an RV. All fuels can be dangerous when precautions are not taken. When used properly, propane is a safe, clean, non-toxic, inexpensive, and energy efficient fuel.

Here are some facts about propane that RVers should know about:

  • Propane is a colorless and odourless gas and being non-toxic so it will not contaminate the soil or surrounding environment.
  • It has an odourant called Ethyl Mercaptan which is added to propane so that leaks are easily detected.
  • Propane is lead-free and contains extremely low levels of sulphur.
  • It is stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders at cold temperatures and will burn your skin on contact.
  • As a fuel, it has the lowest flammability range of all alternative fuels (2.4-9.5%) which means there must be the right combination of propane and oxygen. If there is too much or too little, it will not burn.
  • Propane’s ignition temperature is about 920° – 1020° F whereas gasoline will burn at a lower temperature than propane.

Strict standards and regulation influences the production, storage, transportation and use of propane for your safety. Find more information on the Regulatory Overview page on the Canadian Propane Association website. http://www.propane.ca/en/about-propane/regulatory-overview

On the Canadian Propane Association website, the Storage and Handling Safety Fact Sheet http://cpa-dev.cyansolutions.com/en/media-resources/reports-fact-sheets covers the following: Basic Safety Considerations; The Rules for Transportation; Choosing the Correct Propane Containers; Protecting Your Regulator and Connectors; and Securing Propane Containers Properly on RVs and Campers. Also, this link includes reports and studies done on propane safety and how important it is to investigate the use and handling of propane.

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Propane Safety

This information is from the Office of the Fire Commissioner by email: firecomm@gov.ab.ca or visit www.ofc.alberta.ca, Last update/reviewed May 24, 2012.

Propane is commonly used to fuel household appliances, such as fridges, stoves, furnaces, and outdoor equipment such as barbeques, portable heaters and appliances in recreational vehicles (RV). When used with care, propane is a safe, clean, non-toxic, inexpensive and energy efficient fuel, but it doesn’t take much to create a hazardous situation in an enclosed space.

 

Fire Facts

  • When ignited in an enclosed unventilated area, a dangerous and potentially fatal build up of carbon monoxide can occur.
  • If propane leaks or builds up in an enclosed, unventilated area, it can cause an explosion when it comes in contact with a spark or open flame. The operation of a wall switch, a cell phone/telephone or transmitting 2-way radio can produce a hot enough spark to ignite propane.
  • Exposure to propane in a confined, unventilated area can also cause an asphyxiation hazard (when a large amount of gas displaces the oxygen in the air).
  • Propane is a colourless and odourless gas. A distinct odour resembling the smell of rotten eggs is added to it so that you can detect escaping gas.
  • Propane is stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders at cold temperatures and willburn your skin on contact.
  • Liquid propane vaporizes when it is heated or mixed with air. When propane vaporizes its volume increases 270 times its original liquid form. It is these vapours that ignite.
  • Propane is heavier than air and can spread and pool considerable distances along the ground and be ignited by a distant heat source, spark or flame.

 

The Law

  • As per the propane Storage and Handling Code, all propane cylinders must be re-qualified every 10 years and cylinders 45lbs or less shall be equipped with a cylinder valve that does not allow the flow of propane until a positive seal is achieved.
  • As per the Propane Storage and Handling Code, no propane cylinders may be stored or used inside any structure unless specified in the code, and shall not be stored or installed under any fire escape, stairway, or ramp used as a means of egress form a building. The code specifies that….A maximum of three 5-lb (single trip or non-refillable) cylinders may be stored in a dwelling unit.

 

“As per the Gas Safety Standata G-05-01-B149: If the owner(s) of a building allows propane barbecues and other appliances to be installed on their outdoor decks and/or balconies, the certified barbecues/appliances, cylinders or other items shall be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s certified instructions and can only be equipped with a maximum of one 20lb cylinder per installation; the cylinder must be equipped with an OPD (Over fill Protection Device) and a QCC-1 (Quick closing Coupling) connection valve; the balcony shall be of open design, not be located below grade, and shall connection be of sufficient size to provide adequate clearance to combustible materials as required by the barbecue manufacturer’s instructions; it shall be transported through the building for refill purposes with the QCC-1 closed and equipped with a protective cap; and if transported by elevator must be transferred by freight or service elevators or by a passenger elevator only if no passengers are permitted on the elevator other than the person in control of the cylinder.”

 

  • Please contact the Public Safety Division of Alberta Municipal Affairs at 1-866-421-6929 for further information on propane safety.

 

Safety Tips

  • When purchasing propane cylinders, ensure that they are Transport Canada approved.
  • When purchasing propane appliances, ensure that they are certified and labelled by a recognized testing agency, such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL/ULC).
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using and fitting propane appliances to their gas supply.
  • Only use propane and propane appliances for their intended purpose and only store enough for your immediate purposes.
  • Make yearly cleaning, maintenance and safety inspections of propane cylinders and/or appliances part of your routine. Where required, have them inspected or repaired by a trained professional.
  • When using propane appliances, keep them away from anything that can burn, such as items in and around your home, including dry vegetation, deck rails, wood balconies, twigs, etc. and items in or around vehicles.
  • When handling and storing propane and propane appliances, keep them away from heat sources or flames, such as lit cigarettes.
  • Use and store propane outdoors in a cool, well ventilated area where possible.
  • When using propane inside homes, campers, tents, sheds, and vehicles, keep the area well ventilated.
  • To check for leaks, brush a soap and water solution over the suspected area — bubbles will form if there is a leak. If you suspect a leak, leave the area immediately, shut off the gas supply if possible and remove any possible sources of ignition. Call the fire department from a neighbour’s home.
  • Check the flame on your propane appliance regularly. Appliances that use propane should mostly show a blue flame with yellow tips. If the flame is mostly yellow, this is a sign that the fuel isn’t burning completely and may be producing carbon monoxide.
  • Exposure to propane can result in nausea and headaches. If either of these symptoms develops, get outside immediately and breathe fresh air. Under extreme conditions, exposure to flammable gases can result in death.

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Always have a fire extinguisher, baking soda and water available to put out an accidental fire.

  • Only a certified person may fill a propane cylinder. Ensure they only fill the cylinder to 80% of its capacity. Propane needs room to expand.
  • Dispose of damaged or corroded propane cylinders or appliances by giving them to a propane dealer.
  • When transporting or storing a propane cylinder, secure it in an upright position with a safety plug (a POL plug) in place and keep the transport area well ventilated to prevent gas build up. A POL plug will prevent gas leakage when the valve is accidentally turned on, and is available through your local dealer.
  • Store propane cylinders outdoors, preferably in a locked, detached shed or shaded area. Excess heat may overpressure the cylinder and cause it to release propane from the cylinder relief valve.

 

For more information, please contact the Office of the Fire Commissioner by email: firecomm@gov.ab.ca or visit www.ofc.alberta.ca.  Last update/reviewed May 24, 2012.

References:
Canadian Propane Association  (http://www.propane.ca/en/about-propane/safety)
Alberta Emergency Management Agency  aema@gov.ab.ca
Camping fire safety  http://www.aema.alberta.ca/PA_Camping_fire_safety