Propane-related accidents rarely happen: the National Fire Protection Association estimates that the individual risk associated with propane is one in 37 million.
Nevertheless, propane is often (wrongly) perceived as a dangerous gas and two kinds of accidents most worry potential propane users:
- Propane tanks exploding and explosions linked to propane truck (bobtails) accidents. This is incredibly rare and most accidents of this type are reported (the probability is almost inexistent).
- Carbon monoxide poisoning: this happens when appliances are not producing an ideal burn and carbon monoxide is released. It can cause dizziness, nausea, but extreme cases can lead to brain damage and even death.
There is no golden rule on propane company safety record. All companies have a good safety record given how rare propane accidents are. Furthermore, compliance with federal, state and local regulations is enforced by federal, state and local authorities – which leaves little room for error.
When accidents do happen, and these mostly relate to carbon monoxide poisoning through inhalation, they are due to insufficient employee training or poor consumer information. Therefore, safety remains a priority when selecting a propane company: ensure that their employees are trained regularly and that the company spends time informing you of propane-safety procedures and reflexes. It is precisely because such guidelines are followed in detail that the accident risk is so low.
Propane safety employee training and consumer information
As you request quotes from different propane companies to select the one that best suits your needs, you should ask what programs they have set up to ensure employees are trained and consumers are informed adequately. The most successful of these have been set up by the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA).
Propane Education and Research Council programs
The Propane Education and Research Council’s safety training and information programs are funded by the industry and aim to ensure that the propane industry workforce is trained to comply with federal, state and local regulations, as well as with the highest independent industry standards. Similarly, their consumer safety outreach content seeks to inform propane users of risks and procedures associated with propane systems.
Propane company participation in PERC and NPGA Certified Employee Training Program
Workforce training starts with completing the Certified Employee Training Program (CETP). Set up by the NPGA, the CETP is increasingly accessible to propane industry members as a response to the US Department of Transportation and National Fire Protection Association requirements in terms of employee training. CETP certification implies that propane industry employees acquire crucial safety skills that are tested through an exam. It is recommended that you check whether propane companies take part if in the CETP for their employees.
Propane company participation in other PERC safety programs
The PERC also organizes a number of other training programs/modules for propane industry employees. These concern cathodic protection (protecting propane tanks against corrosion), static electricity (to manage the risk associated with static electricity generated at propane facilities), dispensing propane safely (into cylinders and tanks), bobtail rollover prevention (for propane truck drivers during deliveries) and mobile crane safety training (used for propane tank delivery). Additionally, the PERC has a propane emergencies training program (e.g., in case of an accidental overfill when pumping propane into a tank) and a gas appliance systems check (GAS Check) voluntary inspection program (to ensure your entire system works according to certain standards).
Propane Education and Research Council consumer outreach
Propane user information is also crucial in preventing accidents from happening. This is relatively simple and only requires propane users to be properly informed of what to do if they suspect a leak, what propane maintenance entails and who to call if they have a question.
Therefore, comparing propane companies should include enquiring into what programs they have to inform users and families of the risks and procedures regarding propane safety. Again, the PERC offers a certain number of programs and documents dedicated to consumer outreach to increase knowledge of propane risks and safety measures. Propane companies often convert this information into booklets they give out to new customers.
Company participation in the National Propane Gas Association and their state and local affiliates
The National Propane Gas Association is the propane industry’s advocacy tool. However, the NPGA and its 38 affiliated state or regional associations also promote propane safety in their interactions with their 3,200 member propane companies.