Carbon monoxide gas is odorless, colorless, tasteless and imperceptible to human senses. But as accumulating CO fills the air around us and gets drawn onto our lungs, it bonds to our red blood cells and takes the place of oxygen, diminishing the levels of actual oxygen that circulate through the body. A person suffering from CO poisoning won’t usually feel this happening until it’s too late and they begin to lose consciousness, and this level of concentration usually isn’t reached in a well-ventilated workspace.
But in the winter and during bad weather, workspaces tend to be sealed off from outside air flow. This can create serious problems for warehouses and distribution centers that rely on the use of propane-fueled lift trucks.
Recognize the risks
A lack of workspace ventilation can lead to elevated levels of CO, but a few other factors can also suggest high risk. Taken together, any of these things can present a serious danger to employees: dirty air filters, engines that haven’t been tuned and older forklifts, which tend to produce higher CO output than newer models.
Measures that can reduce CO levels
Safety regulations require CO levels to remain under 50 PPM over a time-weighted eight-hour period. If a PPM reading indicates that CO levels are too high in your warehouse or workspace, consider taking steps to reduce the concentration.
First, increase air exchange in all areas occupied by employees, including office spaces. Install fans, remove barriers and keep applying solutions until air flow is measurably increased.
Second, upgrade forklift equipment if possible. Invest in newer, fuel-efficient models that provide stronger filtration and reduced exhaust.
If new lift trucks are not an option, make sure older models are kept in good repair and clean filters on a regular basis. Apply a regular maintenance schedule and maintain accurate maintenance records.
Finally, don’t assume the CO concentration results from lifting equipment alone. Search for underlying causes that may be contributing to the problem such as broken exhaust vents, infiltration from high-concentration areas or other equipment.
For more on how to keep your employees safe from CO and other workplace and lift truck hazards, contact the equipment and staffing experts at Liftow.