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Published: Wednesday, 11/1/2006

Monoxide illness spurs changes at Bellevue plant

BELLEVUE, Ohio - The owner of a packing plant here where workers were made ill by carbon monoxide last week said he has taken steps to ensure against a recurrence.

Jerry Fritz, owner of Great Lakes Packers Inc., said yesterday the use of four propane-powered forklifts and a decision to close doors and windows on a cold day sent nine workers to a hospital on Oct. 25.

Since the incident, the firm has installed carbon monoxide monitors and will replace the propane forklifts with electric models. Local fire department officials now monitoring carbon monoxide levels at the company have found no problems.

Bellevue is about 50 miles southeast of Toledo.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Toledo is investigating the incident. A spokesman said the inquiry could take several weeks and lead to fines if carbon monoxide levels in workers' blood exceeded federal safety limits.

Mr. Fritz said that on the day of the incident the weather turned exceptionally cold. "We closed the doors. But nobody thought to turn the exhaust fans on," he said. Carbon monoxide is part of the exhaust released by the forklifts' liquid-propane-powered motors.

"We had three people faint within half an hour," he said.

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