Breathe Easier: Improving Warehouse Air Quality

Every day forklift operators working in warehouses are exposed to significant amounts of chemicals and pollutants. Warehouse air quality is a critical safety issue as it has an immense impact on workers’ health and their ability to work. A number of toxic gases like nitrogen oxides, NO and NO2 are emitted by diesel vehicles. Also, toxic mold growth in damp, poorly ventilated areas of the warehouse are another risk. But the most predominant toxic gas is carbon monoxide. Known as the “silent killer,” it is invisible, tasteless and odorless. Having these toxins in your warehouse presents significant risk factors to your workers. Knowing the impact poor air quality has on a person’s health and how to prevent it can improve the air quality in your warehouse.

Air pollutants can cause respiratory diseases as well as cancer. When a person is exposed to carbon monoxide for extended periods of time, organs like the brain and heart are starved. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headaches, visual disturbance, nausea, confusion, chest pain, weakness and unconsciousness.

To prevent poor indoor air quality in your warehouse the causing factors must be identified. With delivery trucks constantly picking up and dropping off goods exhaust fumes have a big impact on air quality. Manufacturing processes or raw materials have chemical emissions that impact air quality. When warehouses are sealed off from the cold in the winter a warehouse’s air quality is impacted by poor ventilation. Older heating and air conditioning systems are unable to keep up with the ventilation needed to maintain proper air quality in a warehouse. If your warehouse is located in an area that experiences lots of rain, high humidity and flooding, moisture and leaks will cause dampness that can lead to toxic mold. When forklifts idle for long periods, air quality in your warehouse can decline. Especially when there’s a failure to verify emission tests on rental forklifts.

326983_origTo improve air quality in your warehouse you’ll want to take the following steps. If diesel forklifts are driven inside your warehouse, you shouldn’t rely on building ventilation alone to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Seasonal temperature changes require quarterly testing to ensure your forklifts aren’t emitting large amounts of exhaust fumes. You’ll also want to keep track of forklift usage and mechanical conditions of your fleet. Tune ups, leaking exhaust systems and worn out engines all play a part in air quality. To ensure the cleanest possible burn, adjustments should be made to the fuel delivery system and throttle. Be sure to measure carbon monoxide levels near the tailpipe.

Monitoring the air quality in your warehouse is extremely important to the health of forklift operators. Carbon monoxide detectors with automatic sensors and ventilating fans that automatically open and close dock doors is one way. Hand held carbon monoxide gas analyzers should be routinely used to perform carbon monoxide exhaust checks. For every day monitoring, consider personal electronic detectors with alarms. Be sure to pay attention to measurement accuracy, maintenance and calibration procedures. Making sure your employees recognize and control workplace air quality hazards will drastically reduce poor air quality in your warehouse. But the two most effective ways to improve air quality in your warehouse are by installing catalytic converters on propane forklifts and transitioning from diesel forklifts to electric forklifts.

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