Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Beware the Invisible Killer

As Seasons Change, Beware the Invisible Killer

More than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces and the like.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that often goes undetected, and as the weather turns colder in many parts of the country, it is important to be aware of the risks. Carbon monoxide becomes deadly when it builds up in enclosed spaces - and anyone can be affected.

At Work
Workers in certain professions, including welders, mechanics, firefighters and toll booth attendants are particularly at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, according to OSHA.

To reduce the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace:

  • Install proper ventilation systems

  • Keep equipment in good working order

  • Consider switching from gas to electrical or battery operated equipment

  • Prohibit use of gas-powered engines in poorly ventilated areas

  • Provide personal, audible alarms

  • Educate workers about carbon monoxide poisoning

At Home

About 170 people die each year from carbon monoxide exposure produced by room heaters and home generators, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The National Safety Council recommends installing a battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide detector.

The CDC offers these and other tips:

  • Professionally service your furnace, water heater and any other fuel-burning devices every year

  • Never use a generator indoors or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent

  • Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year

  • Make sure gas appliances are vented properly

Never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm; immediately move outside, call 911 and make sure everyone is accounted for
Symptoms of CO Poisoning

  • If you see someone with the following symptoms who may have been poisoned,move the victim outside immediately and call 911. If he or she is not breathing, begin CPR.  Low to Moderate CO Poisoning - headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.  High-level CO Poisoning - mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination and loss of consciousness.

This article is shared from the National Safety Council’s Safety Spotlight.

Contact OMAG Risk Management Services department if you have questions about this or any other workplace safety topic.  Gary Cauthen can be reached at (800) 234-9461 or gcauthen@omag.org.

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