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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by burning fuel in such things as cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, grills, fireplaces, and portable generators. When this gas builds up in enclosed spaces, those in the area can be poisoned as the gas displaces oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain, and other vital organs. Large amounts of this gas can overcome a worker within minutes without warning.

The main source of workplace exposure to CO is when an internal combustion engine is operated indoors or in confined area, increasing those toxic levels, especially if they are not properly maintained. Other culprits could include kilns, boilers, fires or furnaces.
Initial warning signs of CO poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea. Those symptoms will continue to worsen during prolonged or high exposures, and then can include vomiting, confusion and collapse.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to keep your workplace as safe as possible. When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, the best bet to managing exposure is to eliminate the source. One method is to substitute non-gas producing equipment, such as battery-powered engines, for those vehicles and machinery that emit CO. If that is not possible, here are some risk control measures to consider:
1. Stop using diesel or gas equipment indoors
2. Modify the work areas to reduce exposure and improve ventilation
3. Test air regularly in areas where CO may be present
4. Maintain equipment that produces CO
5. Develop a written exposure control plan to help employees understand the risks – awareness can be prevention in many cases
6. Install carbon monoxide monitors with audible alarms
7. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) if the CO exposure cannot be minimized

If a worker is experiencing CO poisoning, it’s imperative to act fast! Get the victim to fresh open air and call 911. Every year, thousands of American workers are killed outright from carbon monoxide poisoning, making this poisonous gas one of the most dangerous industrial hazards. Take steps today to mitigate the chances of your workforce’s exposure to this invisible killer.

Since 1962, the National Poison Prevention Week has been observed annually the third week in March to educate Americans of all ages about poisoning risks. Even though the aim (and most marketing) doesn’t necessarily focus on workplace safety, poison prevention is something that should be discussed and steps taken in the workplace to help reduce its too frequent occurrences.

We are exposed to poisons and potentially hazardous chemicals every day, sometimes without even realizing any danger exists. The rate of fatalities due to accidental poisoning in all age groups has more than tripled in the past 55 years. Yes, a huge majority of that is due to fatal drug overdose (both legal and illegal drugs), but accidental poisoning is now the most common cause of accidental death in America.

When thinking about workplace safety and poison prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates more than 50K employees die each year from long-term occupational hazards. There are four different categories of occupational hazards classified as poison:
1) agricultural and industrial chemicals
2) drugs and healthcare products
3) radiation
4) biological poisons

Commonly found workplace environmental hazards include:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Fumes from lead, iron oxide or zinc oxide
  • Manganese fumes
  • Exposure to ammonia
  • Dust from silica and crystalline quartz

While it is impossible to mitigate every possible workplace poisoning, there are various measures you can take to prevent injuries and fatalities:

  • Comply with OSHA’s Health and Safety regulations (HazCom)
  • Request a health & safety audit to check for chemical exposure (air quality)
  • Have appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace
  • Educate your employees on identifying the symptoms of poisoning and know what steps to take, including calling emergency help quickly when required

Taking steps to keep your employees safe from workplace hazards, including poisoning, should be an ongoing priority. Any questions or concerns on how to do this, we are here to help at Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. – 317-253-9737.

According to Center for Disease Control and Health (CDC), carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas, which is predominately produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing materials. Incomplete combustion occurs when insufficient oxygen is used in the fuel (hydrocarbon) burning process – causing more carbon monoxide than carbon dioxide to be emitted.

Every year, more than 400 people unintentionally die in the U.S. from this “invisible killer,” and there are more than 20,000 emergency room visits and more than 4000 are hospitalized due to exposure to carbon monoxide.

Exposure and Symptoms

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuel in vehicles, furnaces, power plants, forklifts, small gasoline engines, heaters, stoves, portable generators – and the list goes on. When exposed to carbon monoxide, it impedes the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to body tissues and vital organs, depriving them the oxygen needed to function properly. Common initial exposure symptoms include headache, nausea, rapid breathing, tightness in the chest, weakness, exhaustion, dizziness, and confusion. Severe oxygen deficiency due to acute CO poisoning is called hypoxia, which may cause brain or heart damage.

You or Someone Else May Have Been Exposed to CO Poisoning?

If you believe you have been exposed to CO poisoning, or if you expect a co-worker is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, these actions could save lives:

  • Immediately remove yourself or move the victim to an open area with fresh air
  • Call 911
  • If victim is breathing, use a tight-fitting mask to administer 100 percent oxygen
  • If the victim has stopped breathing, administer CPR – but only if you have been properly trained to do so on victims of carbon monoxide poisoning as you may be exposed to fatal levels in a rescue attempt

Employer Steps to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Even though may be impossible to eliminate all risks, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of CO poisoning in the workplace.

  • Effective ventilation systems installed to remove CO from work areas, and the system should be maintained on a regular schedule (follow manufacturer’s instructions)
  • All equipment that can produce CO should be identified as such and inspected on a regular basis as well
  • Equipment powered by gasoline should be evaluated for effectiveness and never used in poorly ventilated areas – and possibly switching to equipment that is powered by compressed air, batteries, or electricity
  • Employees should be educated on safe operations of the equipment and on carbon monoxide poisoning, including symptoms of CO poisoning and the appropriate steps to take if they or someone else suspects CO poisoning
  • Provide employees with personal carbon monoxide monitors
  • Test air frequently, especially in confined spaces
  • Provide self-contained breathing apparatuses and respirators when applicable

The best way to control this workplace safety hazard is to remove it entirely from the environment. If this is not possible, taking the steps above can help protect your most important assets – your employees.

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