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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Using a forklift around spirits

Having a forklift around high proof spirits seems like an obvious fire hazard. However, we have had every fire and code inspector required tour and sign off on our facility, and none of them had any issue with the presence of our forklift. Does anyone else use a forklift around their spirits? Are there any tips or tricks to dealing with one indoors? We obviously won't be driving it around while we are distilling...


Reply:

Scott,

Gas or Electric? My experience is that neither are really a risk unless you have a situation where there is a lot of alcohol infused in the atmospheric air. The alcohol fumes would have to be in such a concentration as to work their way into the exhaust or intake manifold of a gas unit, or be drawn into an electric motor. This is unlikely. If you have that kind of situation you will have a lot of other more immediate problems.

I personally believe that an electric forklift is more dangerous than a gas unit. You have several more exposed potential flash points with electrical motors and especially the battery chargers that can be hazardous by themselves. I have seen electrical arcs from chargers and I would be more concerned about that in a distillery.

The best thing is to arrange your distillery in such a way that forklift activity is a good distance from where you handle alcohol. Also keep the alcohol contained in covered containers as much as possible. Also if you are gristing grains be sure and vent or capture the fine dust from gristing.

And of course if you have an alcohol spill keep any and all motors or combustion engines off until you get the spill contained.

This is just an opinion based on experience. I have seen them use forklifts in warehouses where they keep nothing but oils, gases and even alcohols so they must not pose a serious threat. If your local fire experts see no problem then I think you should be fine as long as you are aware, which appears to be the case. Beast


Reply:

We have a Yale AC motor lift truck. I've been told gas units would be much more dangerous than electric, and that AC motors which don't have brushes will not produce sparks like DC motors. AC drive forklifts seem to have become common only in the last 5 years or so, so of course they tend to be a bit more expensive if you're buying used.

I think if you take reasonable precautions you should be fine. Beast had good recommendations.


Reply:

Dana from LI spirits here. We use an electric forklift in our distillery and a propane powered forklift in our raw materials warehouse. The electric seems to work well because it has a smoother action with the forks and driving it seems to be easier in the tight spaces.

The main danger that I am aware of with our forklift is the danger of sparking if the forks strike a metal surface hard enough. However, we have had no problems thus far. Other than that, just be careful!


Reply:

Thankyou everyone, I never even considered the sparks created by the forks hitting the ground.

Our forklift is LP and an important part of our process. My wife and I calculated the volume of pure ethanol that needed to be in the air to create a flash hazard. We'll post the findings shortly,and the results proove that we should be more than safe.

-Scott