While working in an area where heavy machinery is utilized on a regular basis a lot of safety issues are present. One of the most important and commonly overlooked hazards in the workplace is the buildup of Carbon Monoxide gas. A lot of people don’t realize that even smaller gasoline powered machinery raises huge health and safety concerns. Many accidents occur annually in the workplace due to Carbon Monoxide build up that could have been avoided with a few simple safety procedures.
What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that is hard to when present. This poisonous gas has no smell or taste, and can make you very unwell if inhaled, and can possibly result in death if exposed for a long period of time. When Carbon Monoxide is breathed in, it mixes with the body’s red blood cells. This toxic cocktail in your blood prevents the transportation of oxygen throughout the bloodstream. The lack of oxygen in your body causes tissue failure and eventually tissue death.
Know the Signs
Recognizing the symptoms and signs of the onslaught of carbon monoxide poisoning can be identified at an early stage. This allows for proper evacuation and treatment before widespread poisoning, which could result in fatalities. Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning symptoms. If you or anyone around you is experiencing the symptoms listed below in the presence of gasoline operated tools, turn off all machinery, evacuate the premises and contact emergency health professionals.
- Dull Headache
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious health risks and brain damage. In some cases prolonged exposure causes hearing loss, vision loss, and sometimes Parkinson’s disease. Coronary heart disease may also develop after long term exposure to carbon monoxide.
Oftentimes there are little to no symptoms experienced before the level of poison in your bloodstream is at dangerous levels. This is why some simple precautions and using common sense is very important, and can potentially save a life. The risk of exposure to carbon monoxide increase in the cooler months of the year as the level of ventilation drops due to cold temperatures. Be aware of this as fall and winter approach, and ensure proper ventilation is in place and utilized. Listed below are some precautions and recommendations listed by the CDC that employers and employees should enforce for prevention of serious health risks.
- Do not use gasoline powered tools or machinery inside buildings or partially enclosed areas unless the engines can be placed outside away from the air intake so the exhaust cannot be drawn indoors.
- Consider the use of tools powered by electricity instead of those powered by gasoline.
- Use personal CO2 monitors that have an audible alarm that alerts workers when Carbon Monoxide is present in levels exceeding the safe level.
- Conduct a survey to expose all potential sources of CO2.
- Educate the workers on all possible sources of CO2, and the dangers of prolonged exposure.
- Always substitute less hazardous equipment if available.
- Carefully watch your co-workers for signs and symptoms of CO2 poisoning.
- Put warning labels on all gasoline powered equipment and tools alerting the user of the potential risks.
- Inform any renters of the workspace that the use of gasoline powered equipment indoors is strictly prohibited.
- Regular maintenance of machinery to prevent any leaks.
- Go over lift safety and provide proper equipment safety training.
The several health risks incorporated with the exposure to carbon monoxide can be easily prevented by being alert and aware of your surroundings. Speak up if you see someone operating a gasoline powered machine in a poorly ventilated area. If you notice any of your coworkers showing signs of exposure to CO2 an immediate reaction could save their life or prevent them from serious health problems.