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Carbon monoxide poisoning - forklifts in coolstores bulletin
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Carbon monoxide poisoning - forklifts in coolstores bulletin

Who should read this?

This bulletin is for ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBUs) and their workers who use forklifts inside coolstores and other areas with poor ventilation.

 

Introduction

The exhaust fumes from liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), petrol and diesel engine forklifts contain the poisonous gas carbon monoxide. Using fuel-powered forklifts inside coolstores and other areas with poor ventilation has led to several incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in recent years.

 

The hazards and risks

Coolstores keep cold air inside, and keep fresh air outside. This means contaminants such as carbon monoxide remain in the air when fuel-powered forklifts are used inside coolstores, this can build up to dangerous levels in a short time.

Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect because it has no smell, taste or colour. This means you can inhale it without realising.

Carbon monoxide poisoning causes headaches, dizziness, feeling sick, stomach pain, tiredness, confusion, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In serious cases it can cause damage to the brain and heart or death.

You will need oxygen therapy treatment in hospital if you have been exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide, or have symptoms that suggest exposure.

 

The circumstances

Incident 1

A worker was told to use a petrol forklift in the coolstore because the electric forklift was in use. The coolstore door had heavy plastic flaps to allow forklift access, while minimising the loss of cold air. Because there was insufficient air changes, carbon monoxide built up inside the coolstore.

After an hour of using the forklift the worker briefly spoke to her supervisor. Only 15 minutes later, she was found unconscious and not breathing due to carbon monoxide poisoning. She was resuscitated and taken to hospital for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

[image] Figure 1: Avoid using LPG and other fuel-powered forklifts in coolstores and areas with poor ventilation

Figure 1: Avoid using LPG and other fuel-powered forklifts in coolstores and areas with poor ventilation.

 

[image] Figure 2: Use electric forklifts in coolstores and areas with poor ventilation

Figure 2: Use electric forklifts in coolstores and areas with poor ventilation.

 

Incident 2

A worker was stacking wooden crates with an LPG forklift in the coolstore for about 45 minutes. He was found unconscious on the floor beside the idling forklift, struggling to breathe. He was taken to hospital, and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Testing by the NZ Fire Service found that the atmosphere inside the coolstore contained 430 parts per million of carbon monoxide. This value exceeds the workplace exposure standards.

The worker had used the forklift in this way many times before, without becoming unwell.

 

How to keep safe

Use electric forklifts inside coolstores to eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • When using fuel-powered forklifts in a coolstore conduct a thorough risk assessment, ensure acceptable controls are in place and strict limits established and followed.
  • As with the operation of all mobile plant, provision of information, supervision, training and instruction is essential to ensure health and safety.
  • All workers need to know what to do in an emergency.

 

Further information

 


Pubished: June 2016. Current until review in 2017.

Last updated 18 July 2016

PLEASE NOTE

On Monday 4 April 2016, the New Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into effect.

HSWA repeals the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, with immediate effect.

All references to the 1992 Act on this website and within our guidance will be progressively removed.