Gas-powered foklifts consumed propane, gas or diesel and produce, exchange, Carbon Monoxide (CO). Because CO is odorless, colorless and tasteless, it isn’t detectable to you or your workers. What this means is that, if a forklift is running for a long time or left sitting idle in an area, CO can build up without being detected. Pretty soon, your workers might start showing the signs of the flu such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, rapid or labored breathing. If ignored, the employee could pass out and even die.
The severity and rapidity of the onset of these symptoms will depend on the amount of CO present (the concentration). Low levels with prolonged exposure can make your employees sick forward the end of their shift. Several days of this can produce lasting effects.
What to do to protect your employees
- Open bay doors often to allow fresh air into the warehouse.
- Install CO detectors to notify you when CO levels become elevated.
- Instruct your forklift drivers to turn off the forklift when it isn’t being used. Do not allow them to let them idle (all to often, they think that they are just going to hop off and hop right back on when they get absorbed in something or get called away and forget that the forklift is running).
- Use electric forklifts when possible in areas where CO might accumulate.
- Install and run exhaust fans.
- Keep forklift use to a minimum. Instruct warehouse personnel to use hand trucks instead of forklifts whenever possible.
- Make sure the gas-powered forklifts are tuned properly and on a regular basis to reduce the amount of CO they produce.
Being aware of the potential dangers of CO emissions in enclosed areas is an important step in helping avoid problems. Do a quick assessment of the areas where your forklifts run and determine a course of action to make sure your workers have no problem with CO poisoning.