Author: Jeff Ord, ForkliftSafety.com
Carbon monoxide 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, carbon monoxide 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 that 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.
Low cost air quality monitoring and testing with confidential reports logged over an 8-hour workday is important for record keeping should carbon monoxide in your warehouse become a health or liability issue. Quarterly testing is recommended due to seasonal temperatures, forklift usage and mechanical conditions such as tune-ups, worn out engines and leaking exhaust systems, all of which can be factors related to the incomplete burning of propane fuel which contains carbon, therefore elevating carbon monoxide levels.
If unacceptable carbon monoxide levels are detected, 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 to automatically open and close 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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