Sunday, 9 April 2017

 Diesel forklifts' days numbered?

Has the final call on dirty diesel in the warehouse been made? Warehouse operators have long known that they have a legal responsibility to protect their warehouse staff from the deleterious effects of diesel forklift fumes inside warehouses but only now has it been made clear to them that firms could be sued over cancer long after their staff have left them. IOSH and the Health & Safety Executive have issued recent warnings because diesel fumes have been reclassified as a grade 1 carcinogen, meaning they are a definite cause of cancer. This reclassification by a branch of the World Health Organization came after it found that people exposed to diesel fumes at work were up to 40% more likely to develop lung cancer. In Britain, over 650 people die of lung or bladder cancer following exposure to diesel fumes at work and about 800 new cases of cancer linked to diesel exhaust are registered each year.

The fears of warehouse operators, however, do not necessarily end there because it has been known that diesel exhaust fumes, in particular, are linked to pulmonary diseases like asthma, which costs Britain's national health service (NHS) huge sums in medical treatment every year and the problem is worsening. It is estimated that up to 60,000 British people die prematurely from air pollution, 80% of which is caused by road transport fuel exhausts and about half of all vehicles on the road today are diesel powered. There is no reason, in theory at least, why warehouse operators who have been insouciant over the diesel issue in their warehouses should not be sued for pulmonary diseases, too.

The only way for warehouse operators to ensure that they do not face prosecution from the authorities and have the ass sued off them by employee cancer and other disease victims is to ban all diesel trucks inside their warehouses, and make every reasonable effort to minimise diesel exhausts out in the yard. There are, of course, cleaner alternatives to diesel, especially electric forklifts, and the good news here is that one of the main reasons why diesel was preferred over electric, i.e. greater performance in all weathers, no longer applies thanks to big advances in battery and charger technologies which deliver a performance punch equal with diesel.