Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can cause a sudden loss of consciousness and suffocation to those exposed to it. Workers die from CO poisoning every year, usually while using fuel-burning equipment and tools in buildings or semi-enclosed areas without adequate ventilation -- especially during the winter months when workers are in areas that have been tightly sealed to block out the cold and wind.
Internal combustion engines are one of the most common sources of exposure in the workplace. Workers at risk include welders, garage mechanics, firefighters, metal oxide reducers, longshore workers, diesel engine operators, forklift operators, tunnel and toll booth attendants, and taxi drivers, and others who work in boiler rooms, breweries, warehouses, petroleum refineries, blast furnaces, or coke ovens.
CO poisoning displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. The symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. Workers at high or prolonged exposures may experience vomiting or confusion and may collapse and suffer from muscle weakness.
People with angina may experience sudden chest pain. Others at especially high risk include people with lung or heart disease, those at high altitudes and those with elevated CO blood levels such as smokers.
While the effects of CO poisoning can be reversed if caught in time, acute poisoning may result in permanent damage to the heart, brain, and other body parts that require a lot of oxygen.
Someone who may be the victim of CO poisoning should be immediately moved to fresh air in an open area and emergency medical personnel should be called.
Employers can help prevent CO poisoning by:
- Installing an effective ventilation system.
- InstallingCO monitors with audible alarms, and providing personal monitors to exposed workers.
- Prohibiting the use of gasoline-powered engines or tools in poorly ventilated areas. If possible, switch from gasoline-powered equipment to equipment powered by electricity, batteries, or compressed air.
- Maintaining equipment and appliances that can produce CO in good working condition to reduce CO formation.
- Using a full face-piece pressure-demand self-contained breathing apparatus certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or a combination full-face-piece pressure demand supplied-air respirator with auxiliary self-contained air supply in areas with high CO concentrations.
- Educating workers about the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning and the symptoms and control of exposure.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
March 4, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications