Risks of Carbon Monoxide During Forklift Use
The benefits of utilising forklift trucks during warehousing, storage and construction industries heavily outweigh the negative implications that come with forklift truck use. However, they simply cannot be ignored as if a lethal gas such as Carbon Monoxide is present in the air, health issues can occur to those in the working environment. With this in mind, this article will enlighten you with the possible risks of Carbon Monoxide during forklift truck use and how to regulate exposure to this poisonous substance for your warehousing operations.
First of all, let’s explore what Carbon Monoxide is. Carbon Monoxide, abbreviated as (CO), is a colorless, odorless and toxic gas emitted by gas-powered vehicles. Due to its colorless and odorless nature, CO is difficult to detect and can have negative effects in different concentrations. As CO is a main output of forklift engines powered by Liquefied Propane Gas (LPG), operators’ exposure to the gas should be limited and monitored very carefully. You can read about whether LPG is eco-friendly on our recent blog page and can decide whether buying gas, LPG or electric is right for your business.
CO Poisoning And Its Effects:
In low concentrations, forklift Carbon Monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people or chest pain in those suffering from heart disease. If your warehouse facility isn’t ventilated correctly, your operators can quickly grow fatigued from CO exposure, putting your workers at risk of injury and harming your operation’s productivity.
As concentrations of CO rise, exposed people can experience the following symptoms:
- Impaired vision
- Reduced brain function
- Poor coordination
CO is fatal at high concentrations as it binds to blood cells before they can be oxygenated, depriving the brain of needed oxygen. If detected early, carbon monoxide poisoning can be reversed. However, there is still a risk of permanent damage due to the oxygen deprivation associated with the symptoms.
How To Combat Potential Forklift Carbon Monoxide Exposure:
In order to limit CO exposure and maintain safe working conditions in your facilities, you must combat two common contributors to high CO levels:
Outdated forklifts can produce increased levels of CO. If the forklift is heavily dated and hasn’t been serviced, there could be CO exposure as high as 5-10% from the exhaust pipes which is incredibly dangerous for those in the vicinity of the forklift. On the flip side, a new forklift produces around 0.5% carbon monoxide out of the exhaust due to new forklifts following a stricter standard when it comes to environmental protection. As such, older forklifts should be monitored very closely.
Proper ventilation is absolutely pivotal for maintaining a healthy mix of air that meets or exceeds existing workplace regulations. By installing proper ventilation, air exchanges and regularly monitoring your ventilation systems, it can help prevent any catastrophic health issues from occurring. Employers should also regularly test carbon monoxide monitors roughly every 6 months, ensure that gas equipment is installed correctly and prohibit the use of gas-powered engines in poorly ventilated and confined areas.
Regulations And Reporting:
If not detected early or even at all, carbon monoxide poisoning can prove costly for a warehousing business. If an employee is hospitalised due to forklift carbon monoxide exposure, staff are required to immediately report the incident. Your workplace would then fall under a safety audit which includes air quality samples which may incur heavy fines if scored poorly. Not to mention your overall operations will mostly likely come to a brief halt if audits are needed to be conducted.
What Your Company Can Do to Prevent High Levels of Carbon Monoxide Emission:
Below we are going to disclose what an employer of a warehouse/transportation business should do in order to prevent high forklift Carbon Monoxide levels:
- Include CO poisoning in the company’s safety standards and make new and current workers highly aware of it. Forklift drivers that have potential to be exposed to CO must be well-informed about the different poisoning symptoms and what action to take during a time of emergency. Regular training of these practices is highly advised.
- Install an alarm that specifically detects CO in enclosed areas where forklifts are frequently operated in. A correctly fitted alarm can alert workers early to take necessary action. This simple procedure isn’t necessarily expensive and can save you a lot of money potentially in the long term. For this reason it would be unwise not to consider a CO detection alarm.
- Use a new electric forklift as much as possible in confined areas. It emits next to no gases and the new electric forklift issues will have stricter procedures when it comes to its environmental impact. As a result, less chance to be exposed to forklift Carbon Monoxide or harmful emissions will occur.
We hope we have improved your knowledge of Carbon Monoxide and its risks around the workplace. If you feel your forklifts are becoming outdated, be sure to contact your employer so that thorough checks can be undertaken to eliminate risk of CO poisoning and to protect your overall health.