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Bad Forklifts Sent Workers to the Hospital

They experienced symptoms in line with carbon monoxide poisoning.

In early January 2018, exposure to carbon monoxide at Cleary Pallet Sales sickened ten workers. Six employees at the Genoa, IL-based manufacturer had to be rushed to the hospital after experiencing symptoms in line with carbon monoxide poisoning, including nausea, headaches and drowsiness.

OSHA investigated the incident and last week hit the pallet manufacturer with $216,253 in proposed fines. The investigation found that the employees required emergency medical treatment after they were exposed to nearly 10 times the allowable limit of carbon monoxide.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employees should not be exposed to an airborne concentration of carbon monoxide above 50 ppm for an 8-hour shift. One employee who was sorting boards in the saw room was exposed to 513.4 ppm, about 10.27 times the permissible limit. Another employee who was disassembling pallets in the shop was exposed to 344.4 ppm, 6.89 times the limit. Other employees were exposed to anywhere from 235.8 ppm to 70.9 ppm.

According to the OSHA investigation, on three separate occasions Cleary failed to consider the workplace atmosphere to be immediately dangerous to life or health despite alarms from CO detectors.

The culprits appear to be three propane-powered forklifts that were in need of repair, including new mufflers, spark plugs, and fuel-mixing diaphragms. This put the operators and other employees at risk for respiratory hazards.

The company was also hit with a host of other violations, including improper machine guarding on saws, a lack of lockout/tagout procedures on band saws, a compressor, and a baler, and improper training.

Among OSHA’s many suggesting, the agency proposed that Cleary should either repair or tune the forklifts, or replace them with electric/battery-powered forklifts, and improve mechanical ventilation in the work areas.

In a statement, OSHA Aurora Area Office Director Jake Scott said, "This employer risked the health of several workers, and disregarded basic safety standards."

IEN reached out to Cleary Pallet Sales, but they have not returned our requests for comment.

This is IEN Now. 

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