Guard against harmful fumes, gases from forklifts

Heavy machinery like forklifts may pose a danger to workers who are operating or around these industrial trucks. Employers may want to identify potential hazards in the workplace concerning forklifts that may affect employee health and safety, including pedestrians being struck by machines and the fumes generated by forklift engines. As employees use forklifts to transport objects around manufacturing facilities and warehouses, employers may want to install solutions to improve air quality within these workplaces, such as portable air purification equipment.

According to an infographic by AisleCorp, forklifts are involved in 10 percent of occupational injuries despite forklift accidents making up just 1 percent of all incidents. Operators who are not properly trained to use forklifts may cause fatal pedestrian accidents in which someone is stuck or crushed.

In addition to these physical injuries, employers may want to warn workers about illnesses and other health risks associated with forklift fumes. Forklifts that have internal combustion engines may worsen the indoor air quality inside workplaces, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Health effects of forklift engine emissions
Gases produced by these engines may accumulate and become hazardous to worker health. Internal combustion engines are usually powered by gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas or diesel, which could generate harmful fumes and gases, according to the Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP). These engines may also result in carbon monoxide gas accumulating. This odorless gas could cause workers to experience headaches and dizziness, or worse, carbon monoxide poisoning that requires immediate medical attention.

"Sources of CO included the propane lift as well as the idling diesel truck," SHARP said in a report describing an incident that resulted in carbon monoxide poisoning. "The warehouse had some natural ventilation, but no mechanical ventilation. Idling vehicles, no CO alarms and poor employee training contributed to this incident."

To prevent the health effects of hazardous fume exposure, employers may want to maintain their engines found in forklifts and turn them off when not in use. OSHA recommends that workplaces have proper ventilation to avoid gases from accumulating and use carbon dioxide monitors to determine unsafe concentrations of this gas.

Workplaces may also want to install portable air purification equipment to extract fumes from areas where forklifts operate and replace these impurities with clean air.

By Chris Zehner

Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.