Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from a Forklift The characteristics of carbon monoxide that makes it very dangerous are being tasteless, colorless and odorless. It is undetectable by our senses. CO is a fume produced by burning of fuel. Gas, diesel or propane-powered forklifts produce CO. Forklifts when used indoors builds high level concentration of carbon monoxide quickly and it can poison you and other persons around in that confined area.

Carbon monoxide gas is generated when burning of carbon is incomplete from faulty internal combustion engine of a forklift. You need to require a maintenance technician to check the equipment with a gas analyzer. They must ensure that the level of CO and other gases are in the safe level for the location the forklift is operated in.

Breathing it in poses many serious health complications, if not death. Here are the common symptoms of poisoning: mild headache is the common symptom, nausea and dizziness followed by vomiting could be more severe indication that you are exposed to high level of CO. The longer you are exposed, the worse symptoms you may have such as stomach pain and difficulty breathing.

Long exposure to small level of CO could make you suffer from many different neurological conditions such as forgetfulness, mood swing and depression and in other cases, trouble in concentrating and making logical decision.

If you suspect that you are getting exposed to, report immediate to your superior for action.

What You or the Company Can Do to Prevent High Level of Carbon Monoxide Emission

  • Emissions Testing should be done every six months or at least two times per year is the recommended forklift emissions standard.

  • Include CO poisoning in the company’s safety program and make workers aware of it by discussing it in a toolbox talk. They must be well-informed about poisoning symptoms and what action to take during time of emergency.

  • Install an alarm that specifically detects CO in enclosed areas where forklifts are frequently operated in. Alarm can alert workers early to take necessary action.

  • Never operate propane, gasoline or diesel-powered forklifts for long period of time in confined locations even it has sufficient ventilation. Keep the use of the truck in bare minimum in this kind of environment by turning it off when not in use or in idle.

  • Following the forklift preventive maintenance schedule preserves the forklift’s tip-top shape. Being in excellent condition prevents emission of hazardous gases.

  • Use electric forklift in as much as possible in confined areas. It emits less or no gases that could endanger the forklift operator.

Gas and Diesel Powered Forklifts Cannot Be Used Indoors

Though we cannot argue the fact that gas or diesel powered forklifts perform better than electric counterpart, there is one unique limitation – you cannot use internal combustion forklift indoors. Only propane-fueled truck can be used indoor and it can only be operated in places with sufficient ventilation.

Both of these types of forklifts create exhaust fumes. Fume inhalation is a big concern for operators since they sit in close proximity to the exhaust which is just few feet away from the operator cab. According to World Health Organization report, diesel fume is considered carcinogenic. Therefore, diesel-powered trucks are not suitable for indoor use.

Toxicity Level of Carbon Monoxide in the Air

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to the workers if excessive level is reached. Workers can become unconscious, suffer serious health problems and it can even cause death. If you are worried about yourself and the well-being of other people in the workplace, it is better to install gas monitor in strategic places to know the toxicity level of CO in the workplace.

Measurement of Carbon Monoxide
(in parts per million unit PPM)
Adverse Results of Exposure
0 to 0.5 This is normal level in habitable outdoor surroundings.
9 It the maximum permissible measurement when working indoor.
50 maximum level of CO when doing an 8-hour work shift according to OSHA
200 When exposed for 2-3 hours, signs such as nausea, dizziness and fatigue can occur
400 Critical level, grave headache in 1-2 hours of exposure,  death within 3 hours exposure
800 Dizziness and convulsion in 1-2 hours, sure death in 3 hours exposure
1,600 Headache and dizziness in 20 minutes, sure death within 1 hour of exposure

To Conclude This

Carbon monoxide poisoning is big threat when operating forklifts in warehouses, storages or in enclosed spaces. Being aware of this gas’s potential risks to the workers is vital action in eliminating serious problems. Taking the recommendations stated above can eliminate the this menace.


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