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OSHA - Carbon monoxide poisoning

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, toxic gas which interferes with the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. CO is non-irritating and can overcome persons without warning. Many people die from CO poisoning, usually while using gasoline powered tools and generators in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation.




Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
•    Severe carbon monoxide poisoning causes neurological damage, illness, coma and death.
•    Headaches, dizziness and drowsiness.
•    Nausea, vomiting, tightness across the chest.

    Sudden chest pain may occur in people with angina. During prolonged or high exposures, symptoms may worsen and include vomiting, confusion, and collapse in addition to loss of consciousness and muscle weakness. Symptoms vary widely from person to person. CO poisoning may occur sooner in those most susceptible: young children, elderly people, people with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, or those who already have elevated CO blood levels, such as smokers. Also, CO poisoning poses a special risk to fetuses.
    CO poisoning can be reversed if caught in time. But even if you recover, acute poisoning may result in permanent damage to the parts of your body that require a lot of oxygen such as the heart and brain. Significant reproductive risk is also linked to CO.

Some Sources of Exposure
•    Portable generators/generators in buildings.
•    Concrete cutting saws, compressors.
•    Power trowels, floor buffers, space heaters.
•    Welding, gasoline powered pumps.

Preventing CO Exposure
•    Never use a generator indoors or in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces such as garages, crawl spaces, and basements. Opening windows and doors in an enclosed space may prevent CO buildup.
•    Make sure the generator has 3-4 feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
•    Do not use a generator outdoors if placed near doors, windows or vents which could allow CO to enter and build up in occupied spaces.
•    When using space heaters and stoves ensure that they are in good working order to reduce CO buildup, and never use in enclosed spaces or indoors.
•    Consider using tools powered by electricity or compressed air, if available.
•    If you experience symptoms of CO poisoning get to fresh air right away and seek immediate medical attention.

What can you do if you suspect someone has been poisoned?
    When you suspect CO poisoning, promptly taking the following actions can save lives:
•    Move the victim immediately to fresh air in an open area.
•    Call 911 or another local emergency number for medical attention or assistance.
•    Administer 100-percent oxygen using a tight-fitting mask if the victim is breathing.
•    Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the victim has stopped breathing.

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Author Info
Lexie Velasquez lexie@constructionnews.net