February 2024 Safety News

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Safety News

Lessons Learned: Preliminary Propane Tank Fire

What Happened?

A propane cylinder caught fire and was propelled approximately 40 ft. while being used for winter protection. Two 100 lb. propane cylinders were staged a building due to cold weather. One was equipped with an attached “buddy” heater, and the other was a spare. The spare had a small pinhole leak in the bottom of the cylinder. Over time, propane fumes accumulated inside the building (20 X 20 ft.) and eventually ignited the leaking spare propane cylinder. The cylinder was propelled through a set of double doors and landed near railroad tracks. There were two technicians in the area but were not injured from the fire.

What were the causes?

Physical Cause

  • Spare propane tank leak at the bottom of the cylinder
  • Small area accumulated vapors/fumes to ignite

Human Cause

  • Propane supplier did not recognize condition of tank

Latent Cause

  • Buildings electric heater failed approximately 5 days before
  • Extended cold weather required additional heat
  • Tanks are filled on site and are not always routinely checked

Key Learning Points

  • Ensure compressed gas suppliers are performing inspections on all tanks on site

Corrective Actions

  • Gather & inspect all tanks on site
  • Repair electrical heater in building
  • Ensure tanks are not set up inside of buildings from now on
  • Ensure that all tanks (ones being used and ones for spare) are properly spaced from each other
  • Prohibit using buddy style heaters around propane tanks
  • Set up routine inspections on all propane tanks in a work area

Key Learning Point

  • Ensure compressed gas suppliers are performing inspections on all tanks before filling

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