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Workplace hazards: Forklifts pose carbon monoxide poisoning risks

Federal and state occupational safety and health agencies use one day in June each year to remind employers and workers of the dangers of working on and around forklifts. Carbon monoxide is one of the deadliest workplace hazards because the presence of this toxic gas often goes undetected. On the National Forklift Safety Day, employers nationwide, including California, are urged to refresh safety training to prevent complacency among workers and supervisors.

Although all vehicles and equipment that are powered by combustion emit colorless and odorless toxic carbon monoxide, the most significant risk is posed by forklifts or other gas-powered equipment. The danger is exacerbated if the equipment is operated indoors or in semi-enclosed areas. The day of focusing on CO hazards is held to remind forklift operators and others working in the same spaces of the red flags that will indicate the presence of this silent killer.

Each year, carbon monoxide exposure causes the deaths of unsuspecting workers who were unfamiliar with the telltale symptoms of CO poisoning. These include chest tightness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, drowsiness and vomiting. If not treated immediately, carbon monoxide poisoning can quickly lead to neurological damage, and the victim might go into a coma, which could lead to death.

California workers who suffered the consequences of carbon monoxide exposure or other workplace hazards that led to medical expenses and lost wages might be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. If lives are lost, the surviving family members can claim death benefits to help with the costs of end-of-life expenses and other financial obligations. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist throughout ensuing legal and administrative proceedings.

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