Forklift Expert Witness Examines Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Auto Parts Warehouse

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on October 18, 2017

Workplace accident expert witnessThis case involves a female worker who was killed by carbon monoxide emissions from a forklift while working in an automotive parts warehouse. On the date of the incident in question, the decedent was working on a gas powered forklift in the warehouse of an automotive parts supply business that was owned and operated by her family. At the time of the accident, she was working in what was described as a confined workspace, with no external ventilation. She was working on placing new stock on shelves at at the time of the incident and was unsupervised. At some point, a coworker went to check on her and found that she was unconscious and breathing lightly. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. According to the owners of the shop, a third party repair company had performed work on the company’s forklifts shortly before the accident. It was claimed that the forklift repair company failed to replace an old carburetor that was causing a large amount of CO to be emitted in the confined space.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please discuss your experience in forklift maintenance.
  • 2. How do you ensure the safety of those who operate the forklifts?

Expert Witness Response E-014054

I provided engineering instructions for forklift maintenance and modifications while in the engineering department of a heavy equipment rental company. Proper training of all repair personnel, monitoring operations while repairs are underway, and maintaining extensive and accurate records of all repair work that is to be performed, is vital to prevent these kinds of unfortunate accidents from occurring. I have replaced and rebuilt carburetors on forklifts of these natures on multiple occasions, as well as trained and supervised repair workers during the same operation. I have investigated a number of forklift incidents, including one that caused a similar case of carbon monoxide poisoning because of a carburetor problem. I have investigated carbon monoxide cases stemming from a number of causes, and I have twenty years experience in incident investigations including site inspections, testing, and reporting. Additionally, OSHA regulations require that internal combustion powered forklifts should not be operated within a warehouse without adequate ventilation.

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