Adobe Stock / chatchai
Adobe Stock / chatchai

OSHA is urging employers to take necessary precautions to protect employees from the serious, and possibly fatal, effects of carbon monoxide exposure. Portable generators and space heaters are common sources of carbon monoxide on worksites. However, anything that uses combustion to operate, such as power tools, compressors, welding equipment, gas-powered forklifts, and motorized vehicles can also be sources of carbon monoxide. The agency said recent incidents involving the gas highlight the importance of education on the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas, so it is important that employers and employees alike know the symptoms of overexposure. These can include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, or tightness across the chest. Severe carbon monoxide overexposure can cause neurological damage, coma, and death.

Every year, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of employees nationwide, usually when fuel-burning equipment and tools are used in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation. The danger increases during the winter months when this type of equipment is used in indoor areas that have been sealed tightly to block out cold temperatures and wind.

To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace, employers should install an effective ventilation system, avoid the use of fuel-burning equipment and vehicles in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces, and use carbon monoxide detectors in areas where the hazard may exist.

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