Propane is a colourless gas. In properly maintained and operated systems, propane is safe, but like any other fuel gas it must be handled with care and can be dangerous if leaked or spilled. A smell is added to propane (similar to rotten eggs or boiling cabbage) so that leaks can be easily detected. It may be hard for some people to smell propane due to diminished sense of smell, therefore it is a good idea to install a propane leak alarm in any residence, cottage or RV using propane powered appliances. But remember, while an alarm may provide an extra measure of warning, it should never be relied upon as a substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of propane appliances.
If you suspect a propane leak:
- Turn off the supply of propane at the cylinder and leave the area immediately.
- Extinguish all smoking materials and open flames.
- Do not light matches or create any source of ignition.
- Do not touch electrical switches. Do not operate flashlights or telephones.
- Leave the area immediately, move up-wind away from the smell.
- After you are well away from the area, call your local supplier or Fire Department (9-1-1).
- Do not re-enter the area until it has been deemed safe by a qualified technician.
If your home has a propane furnace, water heater, range, refrigerator or other appliance, the Propane Gas Association of Canada recommends an annual safety inspection of your entire propane system.
General safety reminders:
- Always store your propane cylinders outside, in a well ventilated and secure location – never inside an enclosed building.
- Propane can cause severe frostbite if it comes in contact with skin. Keep your head away from the valves on your tank or cylinder. A sudden release of propane liquid from the safety valve could result in serious injury.
- Keep your tank painted a white, aluminum or other reflective colour. A rusty, unpainted or dark-coloured tank does not reflect sunlight and may absorb heat causing an increase in pressure, leading to a possible discharge from the pressure release valve.
- Before a cylinder is refilled have the supplier check for dents, damage, rust or leaks. Propane cylinders must be inspected and re-qualified or replaced every 10 years in Canada. A date stamp on the collar of the cylinder indicates when it was last qualified.
Barbecuing safety tips:
- Inspect and clean your barbecue before using it for the first time each season. Check for worn or rusted hoses, burners and fittings. Replace any parts necessary before using.
- Use a flexible brush (made for this purpose) to clean the tubes between the gas valve and the burner, as blockages can occur due to spiders or insects. Replace missing or worn “O” rings.
- Always check the cylinder connections for leaks before lighting for the first time each season or any time you have replaced the tank. Use a leak-detection solution (or 50% liquid soap and water) to check all connections for tightness. Never use matches or lighters to check for leaks.
- Always use your grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area, clear of the house or other combustibles. Never use it indoors.
- Always open the barbecue lid before lighting.
- Use or store cylinders in an upright, vertical position. Store cylinders outdoors away from heat or sources of ignition (matches, smoking materials, etc.) in a secure, well ventilated area.
- When transporting after a fill-up, take the cylinder home immediately. Never leave it in your vehicle. Secure and transport in an upright position keeping the area where the cylinder is located ventilated with the cylinder valve closed and plugged or capped.
Information supplied by the Town of Richmond Hill Fire Department, Windsor Fire and Rescue and the Propane Gas Association of Canada