Reducing Carbon Monoxide Emissions in Your Warehouse

During cold winter months warehouses are sealed off from the cold, creating inadequate ventilation that often results in more apparent levels of carbon monoxide. This poisonous, odorless, colorless and tasteless gas can result in serious neurological symptoms like persistent headaches, dizziness and nausea and brain or heart damage, even death in severe cases. Non-compliance with OSHA standard, CFR 1910.1000 can result in fines between $7,000 and $70,000. The only way to know if your warehouse is compliant is by monitoring it for carbon monoxide levels. Seasonal temperatures, forklift usage and mechanical conditions like tune-ups, worn out engines and leaking exhaust systems can all impact the incomplete burning of propane fuel which can elevate carbon monoxide levels. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace your entire fleet with diesel or electric forklifts, it does mean you’ll need to take steps toward reducing carbon monoxide levels in your warehouse. Here are some inexpensive steps you can take.
Installing a catalytic converter on propane powered forklifts will considerably reduce carbon monoxide emissions. And no warehouse should be without a carbon monoxide detector, especially one with automatic sensors incorporated with ventilating fans. Some high tech carbon monoxide detectors can also be programmed to automatically open and close a dock door. In other instances, a simple tune-up is all that’s necessary for compliance with OSHA safety requirements.

If your warehouse has emissions from internal combustion engines, you’ll want to ensure a sufficient quantity of fresh air by lowering the amount of CO emitted into the atmosphere. This can be achieved by limiting the number of vehicles in operation. You’ll want to ensure all vehicles are in peak operating condition. Use local exhaust ventilation whenever internal combustion lift trucks receive a tune-up or whenever other maintenance work requires the engine to idle. You can accomplish local exhaust ventilation on a stationary lift truck by connecting a long, non-collapsible, negative-pressure hose to the vehicle’s tailpipe and venting the exhaust emissions directly outdoors.

The best way to monitor the amount of CO generated by each vehicle is to have your lift truck operators wear a calibrated single-gas CO monitor for the duration of their shift. Depending on the results of the exposure monitoring, you’ll can either increase general ventilation or take additional steps to reduce CO emissions like using propane additives. Propane additives can reduce CO emissions by 50% to 60% because they reduce heavy-end buildup in the carburetor. Propane additives also improve fuel economy and engine combustion.

And never underestimate the power of driving techniques when it comes to reducing CO emissions. Train your forklift drivers to avoid cold starts, reduce warm-up time, to minimize their idling time, to avoid erratic braking and accelerating as well as racing the engine. They should also avoid storing or parking lift trucks in cold areas like freezers so they can reduce engine warm-up time and exhaust gases.

If your budget permits, the best way to reduce CO emissions is using battery-powered forklifts. With battery-powered forklifts, the CO emission issue is eliminated. However, slower travel and lift speeds, limited horsepower and difficulty meeting an eight-hour work intensive duty cycle are a few reasons why many warehouses are utilizing diesel-powered lift trucks. Diesel-powered lift trucks emit far less CO than propane or gasoline-powered lift trucks.

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