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Examining Forklift Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Foot On A Forklift Pedal Stock Photo

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning isn’t limited to idling cars in closed garages or using unventilated home heaters that burn a fuel. It can happen anywhere when combustion gases accumulate in a poorly ventilated environment. The very same homeowner who diligently installs CO detectors in his home could face the danger at work.

This hazard often exists in warehouses and other indoor areas that use forklifts for moving heavy items. Forklifts are commonly powered by a fuel such as propane and are safe when properly maintained and used in a well-ventilated environment. Unfortunately, either of these two conditions can break down and produce an unhealthy and potentially deadly work environment.

How Employers Should Reduce the Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Electric forklift use. Electric forklifts are the only reliable and safe option for indoor use or in areas with limited ventilation. Electric forklifts produce no CO gas.
  • Keeping fuel powered forklift engines well tuned. Poorly tuned engines not only waste fuel but put out more CO waste gas that can overwhelm the work area’s ventilation.
  • Catalytic converter use. Catalytic converters change carbon monoxide and other harmful combustion products into nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. They are essential when workers are exposed to forklift exhaust, and when forklifts are used in semi-enclosed areas with good ventilation. Catalytic converters are not a substitute for electric forklifts because they do not eliminate all the CO in the exhaust.
  • Well ventilated work areas. While good ventilation is a must, it alone is insufficient for worker safety. Uniformly low CO concentration is sometimes not possible because of air currents or because of uneven distribution of forklift activity. Workers in areas with high forklift traffic are at risk.
  • Installing carbon monoxide alarms. Even with prevention measures in place, there is no certainty that the CO concentration levels are safe. CO detector/alarms are required for this.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Many of the symptoms are flu-like and include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

Unlike carbon monoxide dangers in the home, you have less control over these risks at work. If you are suffering from work-related carbon monoxide health issues, our South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys can help you with inadequate workers’ comp payments. For a free consultation, contact us.