Carbon monoxide exposure - worker health monitoring
We have had a couple of visits from WorkSafe where they have correctly picked up on workers carbon monoxide exposure from LPG & CNG powered forklifts, primarily from the use of these vehicles indoors or inside a container. We have completed air monitoring, and personal exposure monitoring.
Has anyone done any worker health monitoring in this area, can advise the right way to complete this, and who may be able to provide a service?
The advice we have been provided so far has indicated that we should do blood testing, but I am struggling to find guidance around what this involves, what the logistics are, the costs, or if there are other methods of monitoring the workers health rather than blood tests.
Any assistance would be appreciated.
I'm a little surprised with your results. We have operators working inside and in containers and our environment exposure monitoring found they were well under the WES (our results attached for you below)
If you are over the WES I'm not sure I would be wanting external testing - mainly from a timing perspective. You really need to know a person is over the limit and consequently potentially affected by that exposure. No point having a person driving around experiencing dizziness or nausea while you wait for some kind of health check up.
And if you do a health check, what is it going to tell you. Either the person has an excessive amount of gas in their system - redundant information because knowing you are over the WES you ought to be putting in steps to manage that exposure. Or the person doesn't have an excessive amount of gas in their system - again redundant information because this still doesnt absolve you from the requirement to manage exposure.
I'd be inclined to put in place management controls; re do the environment exposure test and then as a back up do a test (no idea off hand what that might be) to check gas levels in body.
Hi David, best engage an occupational health nurse (via the HASANZ Register) or an occupational physician for advice on health monitoring.
I agree with Kerry getting in a occ health nurse would be the way to go. Assume there is a good reason why you can't change to electric forklifts?
Carbon monoxide is most likely to be coming from a combustion source. Testing personal exposures and areas is a sound practice. Blood levels can also give you more information on what is going on. The amount in the blood can be affected by smoking.
I would suggest you need to assess the possible sources of carbon monoxide. A good step is to test the discharges from the forklift with a combustion gas analyser. This is standard practice for us when we do personal sampling. If a forklift is found with elevated carbon monoxide it needs to be sent for a service or actions to lower the amount emitted.
I would expect the emissions from a forklift for carbon monoxide to be less than 200 ppm.
Biological testing of workers - with carboxyhaemoglobin level in a blood test - would provide additional information which could be helpful. If levels are in the normal range that would be reassuring, although if your environmental monitoring has suggested that levels are high then this requires further risk management regardless, noting also that high levels can cause acute incapacity or death.
Smokers have higher levels of carboxyhaemoglobin so this needs to be taken into account when interpreting results. Some individuals will also be more vulnerable to this hazard due to underlying health conditions.
Samples would best be taken following the exposures you are concerned about. e.g. end of shift. It needs to also be taken into account that this will be a snapshot of exposure and conditions may change this from day to day.
Your local occupational health nurse team should be able to assist you with this, with help from an occupational physician if required.
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