Carbon Monoxide Safety | How To Combat The Invisible Killer

Carbon Monoxide Safety | How To Combat The Invisible Killer

With the weather beginning to turn cold and winter right around the corner, now is the time of year where homes and businesses start firing up their heaters to keep warm. However, something a lot of people forget when they are burning fuels to create heat is the fact that carbon monoxide gas is produced and emitted. In fact, any time a combustion process occurs, whether it be fuel burning furnaces, vehicle exhausts, coal burning power plants, gasoline engines, gasoline powered generators, power washers, fire places, charcoal grills, forklifts, marine engines, gas water heaters, propane powered heaters, or kerosene heaters, there is a chance of a deadly carbon monoxide leak. Carbon monoxide becomes even more dangerous when you consider that it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, so our natural defenses, sight, smell, and taste, become useless to us. Knowing that there is such a deadly gas that could spring a leak at any moment, it is important to be aware of your surroundings when in the workplace and identify and recognize where possible carbon monoxide hazards are. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to combat carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace. To help you with this, we’ve compiled a few carbon monoxide safety tips that you can use to protect yourself and your coworkers from this deadly gas.

First, let us identify exactly why carbon monoxide is so dangerous. Carbon monoxide, or CO, decreases the body’s ability to carry oxygen to various parts of the body. CO attaches to your red blood cells and deprives the body of oxygen, which results in organ damage, or even worse, death. Remember that it does not matter how much CO you inhale, even small amounts can be extremely dangerous. It it odorless, tasteless, and invisible, thus why it is sometimes called “The Invisible Killer”. People who work the following jobs are at an increased risk of CO exposure:

  • Forklift operators. 
  • Garage mechanics.
  • Firefighters.
  • Organic chemical synthesizers.
  • Metal oxide reducers.
  • Taxi drivers.
  • Construction workers.
  • Diesel engine operators.
  • Welders.
  • Toll booth and tunnel booth attendants.
  • Customs inspectors.
  • Police officers.

carbon monoxide safety

If you work one of the above occupations, or work a job where you work with combustion processes, you will want to heed the following CO safety tips:

  • Make sure that your entire workplace is OSHA compliant and everyone is aware of mandated carbon monoxide permissible exposure limits.
  • Read and follow all instructions and pay attention to warning labels on ALL fuel powered tools. This includes power washers and generators.
  • DO NOT use fuel powered tools (power washers, heaters, forklifts, etc,) in enclosed spaces where gas levels can build up quickly. This includes homes under construction and tented off areas.
  • Pay very close attention to flu-like symptoms. If more than one person has them, then you should become especially alarmed. Headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and feeling sick are all common symptoms of CO exposure and should be treated with utmost importance and urgency. CO poisoning can become deadly in a matter of minutes, so any symptoms should be dealt with immediately.
  • If a carbon monoxide leak is suspected or has been recognized, move everyone out of the area IMMEDIATELY and report the situation promptly to authorities.
  • If there’s ANY situation you think could create a CO leak, report it to authorities.
  • Be aware of ventilation issues, especially in enclosed spaces where gases from burning fuels can be emitted.
  • If you at any time feel sick when working, get to the emergency room or call 911 IMMEDIATELY. If you are able, alert everyone that you suspect CO poisoning and have a blood test done as soon as possible. If you are able to identify CO poisoning quick enough after exposure, then your chances of recovery are much greater. DO NOT ignore symptoms!

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real and very deadly threat in the workplace that should not be treated lightly. You and your coworkers can literally die within minutes if symptoms are not dealt with swiftly and decisively. Always be aware of the common symptoms of CO poisoning and know that emergency help is required immediately once they are recognized. Know your carbon monoxide safety, don’t shortchange yourself. Yours and your coworkers’ lives could depend on it.

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About The Author
Brett Gordon is a writer for Safety Partners, LTD.

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