Author: Jeff Ord, ForkliftSafety.com
Carbon monoxide (CO) produced from propane (L.P) powered forklifts in warehouse applications is one of the most common industrial hazards. Poisoning from this odorless, colorless and tasteless gas can result in serious neurological symptoms or persistent headaches, dizziness and nausea, while severe poisoning can result in brain or heart damage or even death. During cold winter months, CO becomes more apparent with warehouses being sealed off from the cold, creating inadequate ventilation.
The occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standard for exposure to carbon monoxide prohibits worker’s exposure to more than 35 parts of the gas per million parts of air (ppm), averaged over an 8 hours workday. There is also a ceiling limit of 200 ppm (as measured over a 15-minute period). Non-compliance with this OSHA standard, CFR 1910.1000, can result in an initial maximum fine of up to $7,000 and continued non-compliance or violations can impose the 10-fold penalty or fine of $70,000.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Forklifts
Low cost air quality monitoring and testing with confidential reports logged over an 8-hour workday is important for record keeping should you have a high concentration of carbon monoxide levels in your warehouse becoming a health or liability issue. Quarterly testing is recommended due to seasonal temperatures, forklift equipment usage and mechanical conditions such as tune-ups, worn out engines and leaking exhaust systems. All of these can be factors related to the incomplete burning of propane fuel which contains carbon, therefore producing high levels of carbon monoxide.
If unacceptable CO levels are detected in the warehouse, there are several inexpensive alternatives or options available. Installing a catalytic converter on a propane powered forklift can drastically reduce carbon monoxide emissions. A carbon monoxide detector with automatic sensors incorporated with ventilating fans or automatically opening and closing a dock door can often prove effective. In some cases, a simple tune-up is all that is required to meet the safety requirements and to reduce carbon monoxide to the required exposure limits.
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