Safety on Your Side: Don’t Get Sick from Propane Floor Buffers

floorbufferOver the past year, an unusually large number of Local 400 members called their union to report that they were feeling dizzy and suffering from headaches. This was cause for great concern, so Local 400 conducted an investigation.

The results were crystal clear—in each and every case, a propane floor buffer was involved.

When they are serviced properly and the filter is clean, propane floor buffers are supposed to be safe, according to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. But if not, they are a carbon monoxide risk. And the symptoms of carbon mon- oxide poisoning are headache, dizziness and nausea—exactly what our mem- bers were suffering from. Worse yet, too much carbon monoxide is lethal.

The maximum tolerable level of exposure to carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million over the course of an eight hour day under OSHA regula- tions. A clean, well-serviced propane buffer produces less than 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide, which dissipates in the air. But an improperly maintained propane buffer can emit well over the OSHA standard, putting your health at risk.

Another risk involves overfilled cylinders, which are a fire hazard.

The problem is that most of our members’ employers subcontract out their floor care operations. This allows management to try to evade accountability for this threat to their workers’ health. We cannot and will not let them get away with it.

The fact is this: Management is responsible for your safety, not only as a matter of morality, but according to the law of the land. Management chooses its subcontractors and is responsible for their performance, including any failure to follow OSHA regulations governing propane floor buffers.

Management should ensure that all propane floor buffers used by subcontractors are properly maintained. This means that:

  • All nuts and bolts are tightened and all hoses are snug and free from defect.
  • Fuel cylinders are stored outside away from buffer when not in use.
  • The buffer is checked by a certified technician including emissions every three months.
  • The dust filter is checked and cleaned or replaced after each use or after each hour of operation.

If you feel nauseated, have a head- ache or feel dizzy while being near a propane buffer, go outside and get fresh air immediately, and then get checked out by a medical professional right away, because you could be a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, talk with your shop steward or representative, so we can get the problem solved and hold management account- able for your health and safety.