Whether it’s for fuelling a barbecue, a patio heater, a fireplace or a whole cottage, propane is widely used. It’s practical and generally safe, which explains why it’s used for daily needs. But it’s not risk-free! If not used properly, it can cause fires, explosions, injuries or poisoning. Here’s what you need to know to use it safely and prevent accidents resulting in Home Insurance claims.
1. What precautions should be taken to reduce risk when using propane?
- Before buying or using a propane appliance, ensure that it bears the seal of a competent agency (CGA, CSA, ULC, cOTL, WH, cETL, cUL or the Régie du bâtiment du Québec).
- Read the instruction manual for your propane appliances and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- At the start of each season, inspect and clean your propane appliances, especially your barbecue. Check if there are any tank or connection leaks by dousing them in soapy water. If bubbles form when the valve is opened, this means there is a leak. If so, immediately cease using the tank and replace it or its defective parts.
- Propane appliances must be installed in a well-ventilated location. Canopy tents or other seasonal structures must not have more than two closed sides in order to have adequate ventilation. Never use propane appliances indoors.
- Ensure there is an ABC-type portable extinguisher in good working order close to any propane appliance.
- Leave a metre of space between your barbecue and any structure.
- Attach fuel cylinders to a solid base to prevent them from falling.
- Close the safety valve after each use.
- Never leave unattended a propane appliance that is in use.
- Have your tanks filled by a certified professional.
2. Is transporting propane tanks dangerous?
Yes! You must follow mandatory safety rules for safely transporting propane tanks in your vehicle:
- Securely attach the tank in an upright position using belts or a bracket designed for this purpose.
- Keep the area well-ventilated. If the tank is being transported in the interior of the vehicle, leave a window open. If you are transporting it in the trunk of a sedan-type vehicle, you can leave the trunk a crack open or fold down the back seats and open a window.
- Always check that the valve is securely closed and the tank outlet is plugged.
3. What are the guidelines for storing propane?
- Always store your tanks:
- Out of the reach of children
- Where they won’t be bumped
- Protected from the sun and any source of heat, flames or sparks
- Do not keep defective tanks or keep tanks for more than ten years. Promptly return them to the distributor or take them to an appropriate disposal centre. Never dispose of them in the garbage! Propane tanks that appear to be empty can still explode.
4. What to do in case of a propane leak?
If propane leaks in an unventilated space, it can ignite or explode. Since propane is odourless, an odorant smelling of rotten eggs is usually added to help you detect leaks.
If you smell this odour near any propane appliance:
- Eliminate any source of ignition: don’t smoke, don’t use a flashlight, match, lighter, candle or cell phone and don’t touch any electric switches
- Evacuate and ventilate the area
- Close the propane supply
- Stop using the appliance until it has been examined by a professional
5. How can carbon monoxide poisoning be prevented?
If combustion is incomplete, propane can produce carbon monoxide (CO), an odourless, toxic gas that can lead to fatal consequences.
To prevent poisoning:
- If you use propane for heating, it is essential to install a CO detector.
- When using any appliance fuelled by propane, ensure that the surrounding area is well-ventilated.
- Find out how to recognize the signs of CO poisoning: eye irritation, fatigue, nausea, headache and dizziness.
- Take action as soon as you detect possible poisoning! If you or another person has symptoms of poisoning, or if the CO detector goes off:
- Evacuate the area and go outside.
- Dial 911. If someone presents symptoms of poisoning, also call the Quebec poison control centre at 1 800 463-5060.
- If possible, leave the door open when you leave the premises to ventilate the area.
- Before going back inside, even for a few minutes, wait for a firefighter to give you the OK.
- Don’t use your propane appliances again until they have been inspected by a qualified professional.