Carbon Monoxide Within The Workplace
Carbon Monoxide (CO) in workplaces is produced by machines, engines and appliances that burn carbon-based fuels such as Natural Gas, LPG, propane, diesel, and petrol.
Carbon monoxide is the most predominant toxic gas found within warehouses using fuel powered forklifts, so carbon monoxide poisoning is a huge threat. CO (also known as the ‘silent killer’ as you can’t see it, can’t smell it, can’t taste it) is a dangerous poison. Opening doors and windows or using large fans does not guarantee safety.
Hazards of Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Because CO is colorless, odorless and tasteless, it isn’t detectable. What this means is, if a forklift is running for a long time or left sitting idle, CO can build up without being detected. Workers may start showing early symptoms of CO exposure. Symptoms are flu-like and nonspecific: headache, nausea, dizziness, visual disturbances, and rapid breathing. If ignored, the worker could pass out and even die. Even low levels of CO can make people ill.
Once exposed, it’s important to quickly take action. People who have been exposed and are experiencing flu-like symptoms need to be safely removed from the environment. CO does not accumulate in the body. Once exposure has stopped and fresh air is inhaled, the lungs exhale CO and it is removed from the body. Breathing pure oxygen can also be administered to speed up the removal of CO from the blood. Anyone who has lost consciousness needs immediate medical attention – call 911.
Forklift Maintenance & Carbon Monoxide Emissions Testing
The condition of your forklift and the quality of maintenance plays a large role in how much CO is emitted. When forklift engines aren’t properly tuned or maintained, they burn fuel less efficiently. This causes an increase in the amount of CO produced. Regularly serviced machines will emit lower amounts of CO. Get your forklifts on a routine maintenance and emissions testing schedule to protect your employee’s health.
CO Emissions Testing is essential for fuel powered forklifts that are operating indoors. Certified technicians use CO testing equipment to analyze the concentration of CO from the forklift exhaust. Based upon their read out, they provide a necessary tune-up to adjust the air and fuel mixture in order to control CO exhaust emissions.
CO Emissions Testing Should Be Performed When & How Often?
Typically most companies have their CO Emissions Testing performed during Fall months (September or October). When it starts getting cooler out, the weather forces dock doors and windows shut so it's very important to check emissions and test ventilation systems during the Fall season. Twice a year is the suggested amount for testing; about every 6 months. Spring (April or May) is another good time to get emissions testing done and a tune up to make sure engines are running efficiently.
What Can I Do To Help Protect Myself & My Employees?
Having an efficient running fleet of forklifts would be the first thing to do. There are other necessary steps that need to be taken to help protect your employees: view Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips Flyer & Carbon Monoxide Awareness Employee Training Checklist
- Post Carbon Monoxide warning signs in forklift travel zones.
- Forklift operators, mechanics, and employees working in forklift travel zones should be educated on signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and what to do in an emergency.
- Forklift operators need to be instructed to NOT allow the trucks to idle. Dangerous levels of CO can build up quickly. Keep forklift use to a minimum when possible.
- Make certain there’s always proper ventilation. Keep exhaust fans running and make frequent checks to make sure they’re working properly. Keep dock doors open, if possible, to allow fresh air in.
- Make sure fuel powered forklifts are maintained and tuned properly on a routine basis.
- Use personal CO monitors with alarms where potential sources of CO exist. Stationary CO detector alarms should be installed within worker-occupied and forklift travel zones.
- Do not operate fuel powered forklifts in unventilated areas. It’s recommended to use electric forklifts.
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, schedule routine forklift maintenance and emissions inspections, and determine a course of action to make sure your workers have no problem with CO poisoning.
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