Detecting invisible workplace risks is always a challenge. One such hidden hazard is carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas.
When inhaled, CO displaces oxygen in the blood – depriving the heart, brain, and other vital organs. Exposure to CO can quickly lead to loss of consciousness, suffocation or death – large amounts of the gas can overcome a worker in minutes without warning.
Warning Signs of the “Silent Killer”
Although symptoms may vary widely from person to person, initial symptoms of CO poisoning include:
Note: During prolonged or high exposures, symptoms may worsen and include vomiting, confusion, and collapse.
If a worker is experiencing CO poisoning, you must act fast!
- Get the victim to the fresh open air
- Call 911 for assistance.
First responders who may be at risk of exposure to CO should be trained on appropriate recovery operations.
At-Risk Employee Populations
You may be exposed to harmful levels of CO in boiler rooms, warehouses, petroleum refineries, pulp and paper production, and steel production; around docks, blast furnaces, or coke ovens; or in one of the following occupations:
- Garage mechanic
- Carbon-black maker
- Organic chemical synthesizer
- Metal oxide reducer
- Longshore worker
- Diesel engine operator
- Forklift operator
- Marine terminal worker
- Police officer
Awareness is Prevention
Employers are encouraged to educate workers about the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning, symptoms and exposure controls. To reduce CO exposure risk in the workplace, OSHA recommends:
- Test air regularly in areas where CO may be present, including confined spaces.
- Maintain equipment and appliances that produce CO.
- Consider switching from gasoline-powered equipment to equipment powered by electricity, batteries or compressed air if it can be safely used.
Do not use gasoline-powered engines or tools in poorly ventilated areas.
- Install CO detectors with audible alarms.
Holly is an ER nurse by trade, but loves content marketing. She was born outside the box and believes everything is better with “sprinkles and sparkles”. She is passionate about impacting lives and uses marketing as her platform for sharing practical solutions to address real life occupational health challenges.