Today’s Safety Daily Advisor Tip:
10 Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Topic: Safety Management
|Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is a common industrial hazard resulting from the incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material containing carbon, such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood. Because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and nonirritating, workers can be poisoned without warning. Here are 10 tips for safeguarding your workforce.
CO poisoning—and even death—can happen very quickly. You may have read about the four people found dead on a houseboat in Illinois last week, and carbon monoxide has been confirmed as the cause of death.
The reason CO can be lethal is that it displaces oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome a worker in minutes, causing the employee to lose consciousness and suffocate. Even if an employee recovers, acute poisoning may result in permanent damage.
The OSHA Required Training for Supervisors monthly newsletter provides the following advice.
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Sources of CO Poisoning
One of the most common sources of industrial CO poisoning is the fuel-driven forklift. The risk of CO poisoning is especially high when gas- or propane-powered forklifts are used inside enclosed spaces, such as tractor trailers, refrigerated storage areas, and other nonventilated spaces. Even with ventilation, the situation can still be hazardous, since poisoning can occur even at low CO concentrations.
Other sources of workplace CO poisoning include:
–Cars or trucks left idling in enclosed spaces, such as a garage,
–Portable fuel-burning power tools, such as concrete saws and chainsaws used in confined or poorly ventilated spaces,
–Generators used indoors,
–Poorly vented or malfunctioning heaters, furnaces, and ovens, and
–Power washers, insulation blowers, and compressors used in enclosed areas.
The risk of CO exposure is heightened during cold winter months when doors, windows, and other sources of natural ventilation may be closed.
How to Minimize the Risks
Here are 10 simple tactics for reducing the risk of CO exposures in work areas under your supervision:
1. Identify potential sources of CO exposure and monitor employee exposure.
2. Make sure ventilation systems are working properly to remove CO.
3. Maintain CO-producing equipment in good working condition.
4. Consider switching from gasoline-powered equipment to equipment powered by electricity, batteries, or compressed air for situations where there is a high risk of CO poisoning.
5. Prohibit the use of fuel-powered engines or tools in poorly ventilated areas.
6. Install CO monitors with audible alarms in areas where CO might be formed.
7. Test air regularly in areas where CO may be present, especially confined spaces.
8. Require employees to use a full facepiece pressure-demand self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or a combination full facepiece pressure-demand supplied-air respirator with auxiliary self-contained air supply in areas with high CO concentrations. Have them use respirators with appropriate canisters for short periods under certain circumstances where CO levels are not exceedingly high.
9. Provide training to educate workers about sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning, preventive measures, symptoms of exposures, and first aid for CO poisoning.
10. Instruct employees to report ventilation or other problems that could result in CO exposure.
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
It’s important to ensure that your workers are aware of the signs of CO poisoning. Besides tightness across the chest, early symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. (Note that early symptoms could be mistaken for signs of other illness, such as a cold, flu, or food poisoning.) During prolonged or high exposures, symptoms may worsen and include vomiting, confusion, and collapse in addition to loss of consciousness and muscle weakness.
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First Aid for Exposure
When CO poisoning is suspected, prompt action can save a life:
–Immediately move the victim to fresh air in an open area.
–Call emergency medical assistance.
–Administer oxygen if the victim is breathing.
–Administer CPR if the victim is not breathing.
Employees can be exposed to fatal levels of CO in a rescue attempt. Rescuers should be skilled at performing recovery operations and in using equipment.
Tomorrow we’ll tackle the legal, management, and training issues of carbon monoxide in the workplace.
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