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Warehouse work: forklifts, carbon monoxide and other dangers

Warehouse work can be dangerous to employees in many different ways. Most obvious, of course, is the constant traffic of forklifts that bustle back and forth carrying various packages and pallets.

But those are far from the only dangers. In Pennsylvania recently, at a specialty grocery store warehouse, the issue was a carbon monoxide leak that caused numerous workers to become ill.

The incident occurred at a Trader Joe's warehouse in East Allen Township. All 197 workers who were on duty were evacuated when a fire alarm went off. Fire crews responded quickly and found the carbon monoxide leak.

Eighteen of the 197 employees complained of becoming sick due to the noxious air. They were treated at a hospital, and returned to work later in the day. Although these workers are expected to make a full recovery, the accident could have been much worse.

That is why the federal Occupational and Health Administration is investigating what happened. Preliminary indications are that malfunctioning batteries from five forklifts may have been the cause of the carbon monoxide leak. The full investigation could take up to six months.

Once the investigation is complete, OSHA has the authority to respond accordingly. This could include issuing fines and corrective action directives if the Trader Joe's warehouse is found to be in violation of workplace safety rules.

As a grocery company, Trader Joe's also employs many food production workers. Those workers sometimes face exposure to contaminated products, such as salmonella. In fact, another federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration, is investigating a Trader Joe's facility that is believed to have produced tainted peanut butter.

Source: "OSHA Investigating Carbon Monoxide Leak at Trader Joe's Warehouse," Occupational Safety & Health, 9-26-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Pennsylvania workplace injuries page.

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