While there have been misconceptions surrounding the safety of propane (or LPG), all fuels have the potential to be dangerous when the proper precautions are not taken. The key to safety is proper use and handling.
Some of the characteristics of propane, along with the regulations applied to the equipment, training, and handling, make propane one of the safest fuels when compared to many other fuels such as gasoline, diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG).
Propane as a Fuel
- Propane is non-toxic – it will not contaminate the soil or the surrounding environment.
- Propane is odourized – an odourant called Ethyl Mercaptan is added to propane so that leaks are easily detected.
- Propane is lead-free.
- Propane contains extremely low levels of sulphur.
- Propane has the lowest flammability range of all alternative fuels (2.4 – 9.5%) – so there must be the right combination of propane and oxygen, if there is too much or too little propane it will not burn.
- Propane’s Auto Ignition temperature is approximately 850° - 900°F, gasoline’s auto ignition temperature is 495°F – therefore, gasoline will burn or explode at a much lower temperature than propane.
- Propane tanks must be equipped with a pressure relief valve that opens and closes to prevent excessive internal pressure due to abnormal conditions.
- The 2007 edition of the Propane Storage and Handling Code introduced a new requirement that cylinders, of 40lbs propane capacity and less be equipped with an Overfill Protection Device (OPD). The OPD is certified as a secondary device and is meant as a back stop device in case the attendant accidently tries to overfill the cylinder.
- Marks are stamped onto the collar of cylinders identifying the original date of manufacture and any subsequent re-testing dates. For a diagram that explains how to read the collar, click here.
Cylinders must be inspected and requalified every 10 years – it is against the law to fill an outdated cylinder. The disposal or re-qualification of a cylinder must be done by organizations that have the appropriate equipment, training and certification to do so, and which have been certified by Transport Canada to do the work.
- To find a re-qualifier in your area, go to the Transport Canada website. (Note: Select the "External Visual" cylinder re-qualification method (for propane cylinders).
- Never throw your propane cylinder in the garbage. To dispose of your old cylinder, drop it off at a municipal transfer station or depot that accepts propane cylinders. Your propane supplier may also accept cylinders for disposal. Please click here for a list of the various programs in each province.
- Personnel are required by law to have a record of training (ROT) to fill propane tanks and cylinders (transfer propane from one container to another)
- The Propane Training Institute, a division of the CPA, offers over 30 propane-related courses and issues over 24,000 training certificates annually.
- Propane is the most commonly used alternative transportation fuel in Canada.
- Worldwide there are over 21 million vehicles powered by propane.
- Propane tanks are 20 times more puncture-resistant than gasoline tanks – which makes them less likely to rupture in an accident.
- Propane tanks used in vehicles are equipped with a stop-fill valve that stops the filling process when the tank reaches 80% of its liquid capacity, which allows room for volume changes due to temperature variations.
- Propane engine fuel systems are fitted with safety devices and shut-off valves that function automatically to prevent the escape of propane if the fuel line ruptures in an accident.
- Onboard gas detectors and other safety valves allow fuel to flow only when the engine is operating.
- If the vehicle should catch fire in the event of an accident, the propane tank is designed to control its pressure via a pressure relief valve, saving the tank from rupturing and causing further damage.
Standards & Regulations
Strict standards and regulations are in place to govern the production, storage, transportation and use of propane to ensure your safety. For more information, please see our Regulatory Overview page.
The following safety tips and fact sheets are provided for information purposes only. Always consult with a qualified professional for clarification on particular equipment or requirements in your jurisdiction.
Whether you are looking for information on taking your barbecue out of storage in the spring, checking for leaks, lighting the barbecue or changing the cylinder, our Barbecue Safety Fact Sheet is provided to help you operate your barbecue safely.
Carbon monoxide, commonly known as CO, is a colourless, odourless and tasteless toxic gas. Propane appliances, like all other fuel-burning appliances, can present the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning if not installed, operated, vented or maintained properly. Even a small amount of CO is dangerous in enclosed spaces like your home, garage, vehicle, cottage, boat, recreational vehicle or tent.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to ensure your family is informed of the symptoms and causes of CO poisoning, as well as the precautions you can take. Find out more by reading our Carbon Monoxide Safety Fact Sheet.
Storage & Handling
Propane is stored and used in sealed containers and fuel systems, and is only transferred from one container to another by trained personnel. Please see our Storage & Handling Safety Fact Sheet for information including:
- Basic Safety Considerations
- The Rules for Transportation
- Choosing the Correct Propane Containers
- Protecting Your Regulator and Connectors
- Securing Propane Containers Properly on RVs and Campers
RVs and Campers
If you and your family use a recreational vehicle (R.V.) or camper it is important to ensure all users are familiar with the manufacturer's written operating and maintenance instructions. If you are renting, ask for safety instructions. Use the same care and diligence when tending to the propane systems in your R.V. or camper as you would for those in your home or business. With respect to regulations specific to the use of R.V.s and campers in Canada:
- In many provinces, regular inspection of the propane system on board by a qualified service technician is mandatory.
- In most provinces, it's law that all appliances and pilot lights must be turned off and cylinder valves closed while travelling.
Contact the provincial Motor Vehicle Branch where you own, rent or operate an R.V. or camper to inquire about requirements that may apply to you.
Safety At Home
The propane inside a container is in liquid form with a vapour space above the liquid. Propane turns to vapour (gas) when it is released from the container. Liquid propane can cause severe frostbite if it comes in contact with your skin or eyes. Keep your head away from the valves on your tank or cylinder. A sudden release of propane liquid/vapour from the pressure relief valve could result in serious injury.
Propane can be ignited by many sources including pilot lights, open flames, smoking materials, electric sparks, and static electricity. Ignition of propane gas within an enclosed space can result in an explosion.
Please see our Safety at Home Fact Sheet which includes information on:
- Checking for Leaks Regularly
- What to Do If You Run Out of Gas
- Using and Maintaining Appliances as Directed
- Calling Before You Dig
- What to do if you suspect a gas leak
- Importance of regular inspections
Other important things to know about propane safety at home:
Be Familiar with Propane's Odour
When produced, propane is both colourless and odourless. An odourant called Ethyl Mercaptan is added so, in the event of a leak, you can detect the escaping gas by its strong, distinct smell (like rotten eggs, a skunk, or boiling cabbage). Ask your propane supplier to familiarize you and your family with this smell. If you think the odour of your propane gas is weak, call your propane supplier.
You may also consider the purchasing of a propane gas detector – ensure it is certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC). But remember, it should never be relied upon as a substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of propane appliances. If you smell propane in or outside your home, no matter how faint, always treat it as an emergency, whether the detector’s alarm is ringing or not.
Know How to Shut Off Your Propane Supply
If it is safe to do so, in an emergency, such as a flood or a leak for example, it may be necessary or prudent to shut off your propane supply before your propane supplier or first responder (i.e. Fire Department) arrives. Depending on the situation, you may require a visit from a qualified service technician to turn the gas back on, check for leaks and turn on the pilot lights. It is important that you know the proper procedures for turning the propane supply on and off – safety first! Contact your propane supplier for instructions.
Know How to Change Your Cylinder
Whether it’s for your barbecue, your R.V. of for any another appliance for which you have a portable cylinder attached, the time will come when it’s time for a refill or replacement. Here are the steps to follow when it’s time to change your cylinder to ensure it is done safely:
Make sure all pilot lights and appliance valves are shut off and there are no open lines.
- If changing a cylinder on a barbecue, make sure the lid is open and the burner valves are closed.
- If changing a mounted R.V. or camper cylinder, complete this step BEFORE entering the refuelling area. Then turn off the vehicle engine and have all passengers leave the R.V. or camper.
- Shut off the cylinder service valve supplying propane to the system.
- Disconnect the cylinder and remove for refilling or replacement.
- Older models have a POL (prest-o-lite) fitting with a left-hand thread that will require the use of a properly sized wrench.
- Cylinders equipped with a black plastic nut turn counter-clockwise to loosen and turn clockwise to tighten.
- Install the attached protective plug or cap to the service valve outlet if transporting the cylinder.
- If your connector POL fitting requires a rubber “O” ring, replace it if it is worn or missing.
- Prior to reconnecting the cylinder to the service line, secure the cylinder in a cabinet or bracket and remove the protective plug or cap.
- Reconnect the cylinder to the service line.
- Slowly turn on the cylinder service valve only and ensure appliance/burner valves remain closed.
- Check for leaks.
- If pilot lights are involved, after you’re sure the system is leak-free and the controls are operating properly, the pilots can be relit following manufacturer’s instructions.
Weather-Related Safety Tips
For safety procedures when flooding is predicted, please see our Flooding Safety Fact Sheet.
The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) in the U.S. has made available a number of other weather-related safety documents on their consumer website such as thunderstorms, extreme heat and winter storms, that contain valuable information applicable for Canadians as well.