Propane Safety in Food Trucks

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Thus far most government offices inspect the sanitation of food trucks and rarely check for gas leaks or other similar potential dangers. That is, until one food truck in Minneapolis parked in Lakeville blew up because of a gas leak. This incident triggered a domino effect as one after another sectors of society began to question the safety of food trucks to the point of many consumers worried that they may not be safe being in close proximity to trucks that do not have to follow any propane safety measures.

In Minnesota, food trucks have annual inspections before a license is issued just like restaurants. And although gas leaks are rare, some feel that food truck employees should be trained to know the smell of gas leaks to prevent an explosion from happening.  Aside from the incident at Lakeville, there were 4 other similar cases with food trucks last year with 2 deaths. Some of the safety procedures that must be observed are:

  • Buying propane gas only from licensed dealers
  • Twice yearly check of valves: once before the start of truck season and midway through the season
  • Consider using other cooking methods other than propane gas
  • Buying insurance to cover such incidents
  • Report food trucks that are in violation of any safety standard for commercial vehicles

The Lakeville food truck was not in violation of any safety code. In fact, it was approved for licenses and permits every year since 2012. It never violated any city ordinance or law and only got citations for handlers not wearing sanitary gloves and the use of high concentrated cleaning solutions.

Food truck owners should have a protocol for employees to follow should the following happen:

  • Smell of gas
  • Changing of propane tanks
  • Checking for leaks

Some of the do’s and don’ts for food truck operations using propane gas are:

  • Evacuate the area after shutting down the gas and anything else that is heating
  • Always make it a point to check the vents
  • Never modify the propane set-up without a professional
  • Make sure there is sufficient ventilation

Propane gas is dense so if there is a leak, the gas will settle at the feet level. Make sure you have nothing at the feet level that can cause a spark. You can also buy a leak detector and remind your staff to always shut off the gas at the end of the day and during rest periods.

Food Truck Safety Tips: Propane and Other Safety Hazards

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Last year a Philadelphia food truck exploded killing a mother and her daughter who were working the food truck and injuring a handful of other customers and passers-by.  It was a shocking incident especially since it was caught on video. Officials are saying that the sudden spike in food trucks took many cities by surprise so much so that there appears to be a lack in planning especially with regards to safety.

According to IBISWorld, food trucks have grown by an average of 8.4% in the past 5 years. It is expected that by 2017, the food truck industry would be raking in sales of US$2.7 billion in the United States alone.

Safety Protocol for Food Trucks

In order to stay well within the safety zone as a food business, food truck owners have to follow minimum safety protocols. They are:

Prevention of Food Contamination and Sanitation

Salmonella poisoning is serious and can cause young children and seniors to end up in the hospital with severe infections. It is more common during the summer months when the food trucks are out with a vengeance. It is caused by food contamination and poor food handling. For example, if you touch raw eggs and then touch the plates that will be used to put cooked food, you are cross contaminating your plates. If you find a roach in your truck and kill it or handle pets before cooking, you could contaminate the food. Unfortunately, contaminated food does not look contaminated.

To avoid this kind of problem:

  • Wear gloves
  • Assign only one person to handle raw ingredients
  • Change gloves everyday

Other sanitation problems are falling hair, dirty hands and nails, and servers that do not bathe and shampoo daily. You should also clean your truck before you open and after you close for the day.

The Danger of Propane Tanks

The explosion in Philadelphia was caused by a propane tank leak. Usually, you will hear a hissing sound if there is a leak but it does not always happen. If you smell something like rotten eggs, check your tank. You can do a spot check by applying some bubbly soap to the tank’s main valve. If there are bubbles, you can be sure there is a leak. Shut down immediately and call your supplier. Also, to make sure your tank isn’t leaking, have a supplier who is licensed and has a good reputation. Do not accept tanks that are badly maintained and buy an electronic leak detector. You should also have good ventilation.

Safety measures should be one of your primary concerns because your food truck can affect the lives of others and expose them to danger and risk to life and limb which insurance cannot always correct.

Food Truck Robberies: How To Prevent Your Food Truck Business From Being Victimized

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Food truck crimes is nothing new. They have been happening since the time food trucks were limited to servicing construction crews on site.  However, there has been a slight upsurge in crimes against or by food trucks that have caused police officers to take a more serious look at the safety and security of food trucks and their customers.

A few examples of the crimes that took place last year include being robbed at gunpoint, selling of drugs from a food truck, petty thefts from food truck employees, and stabbing of food truck owner. By being aware of these past crimes, it is possible to avert anything happening to your food truck business. Knowing and planning ahead is always almost 50% of the work in securing your business.

How To Prevent Theft and Lower Risks to Robberies

The top reasons for being victimized are:

  1. It’s easy to rob from a food truck because they usually don’t have CCTV or any security cameras.
  2. Food trucks work up to late and the workers are tired and less alert by late evening.
  3. Many food trucks pick locations that are not heavy with foot traffic because of complaints from brick and mortar establishments.
  4. There are usually only 2 people manning a food truck.
  5. Most food trucks accept only cash transactions.

In short, food trucks are extremely vulnerable to thieves and robbers but you can prepare and set up your food truck to lower the chances of being a victim.

Secure your Truck and your Workers

Since food truck workers can get very busy with customers, install CCTV cameras. You will need one pointed towards the person taking orders and receiving payment and one at the main entry/exit door. You should also consider an auto lock for your door so your workers do not get taken by surprise. Finally, put exterior lights around the truck to keep your surrounding bright. If you’re just starting out and can’t afford the cameras, pretend to have them just the same.

Schedule Cash Pick-Ups

When you are expecting a flood of customers for special events, arrange for someone to come and pick up your cash. You can even pay for cash service pick-up so your truck does not carry a lot of money at any given time. In addition, make sure your cash is hidden from customers or anyone from a vantage point. Keep your cash register hidden from plain site and make sure you have sufficient small change. If you keep asking for smaller bills, you’re telling everyone within hearing range that you are enjoying a good sale day and have run out of change. You might also want to sign up for a wireless credit card payment system.

Finally, never park solo to sell food. Try to stay part of a pack or make sure the street or park is well-lit and patrolled.