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Food truck safety resources spotlight propane hazards

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Richmond, British Columbia — WorkSafeBC has published a safety bulletin and blog post intended to help food truck owners and workers avoid hazards associated with propane tanks.

Many food trucks use propane as a fuel source for cooking and other equipment. The bulletin cautions that hazardous buildup can result when propane seeps from leaky tanks or unlit pilot lights into enclosed spaces. Ignition sources that may trigger explosions include open flames, hot surfaces, sizzling oil, electrical equipment and wiring. Although propane usually is sold with an odorant “that smells of rotten eggs to warn of a leak,” cooking smells may mask the odor, WorkSafeBC warns.

The bulletin includes tips to help reduce the risk of propane explosions. Among them:

  • Ensure tanks, fittings, hoses, cooking equipment and all related parts satisfy established safety standards. Inspect and perform maintenance regularly.
  • Check for propane tank leakage and unlit pilot lights at least twice a day during business hours. Perform checks before and after each truck move and tank change. Always turn off tanks before driving trucks.
  • Train workers in propane use and handling.
  • Equip the truck with a flammable gas detector.
  • Don’t use old propane tanks. Store spare tanks in an upright position securely outside the truck.
  • Keep extraneous ignition sources such as cigarettes, lighters, heaters and power tools away from propane tanks at all times.

WorkSafeBC urges food truck operators to establish a written emergency plan that covers protocol for emergency response and evacuation.

“We want to make sure we have as broad-based a form of education and communication as we can,” WorkSafeBC Occupational Hygiene Officer Rhonda Langlois says in the blog post. “Let’s educate [food truck operators] from the beginning – before they go out.”

According to data from Los Angeles-based market research firm IBISWorld, nearly 29,000 U.S. workers are employed in the food truck industry – a 10.8% increase from 2014.

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