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Safety Tips | Workplace exposure

Avoid CO poisoning when using gas-powered tools

January 14, 2011

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Because it is both colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide can be one of the most dangerous gases present in a work environment. Victims of CO poisoning may not even be aware they are being overcome by CO fumes.

According to NIOSH, gasoline-powered engines and tools present a potentially serious CO hazard. When working with such tools, workers should:

  • Conduct a workplace survey to identify and evaluate all potential sources of CO.
  • Be sure all potentially hazardous equipment is marked with a warning label.
  • Never allow the use of gas-powered engines or tools indoors. Do not use them in partially enclosed areas unless the gas engines can be placed outside and away from air intakes.
  • Always place the pump and power unit of high-pressure washers outdoors and away from air intakes.
  • Consider using electric tools, or those powered by compressed air, as an alternative if available.
  • When using compressed air, place the gas-powered compressor outdoors and away from air intakes.
  • Use personal CO monitors equipped with audible alarms to warn workers when levels are dangerously high.
  • Learn to recognize symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and visual disturbances. These symptoms can occur minutes after equipment is turned on.
  • If you recognize any symptoms of CO poisoning, immediately shut off equipment. Go outdoors or to a place with uncontaminated air.
  • If medical attention is required, call 911. Do not drive yourself to a medical facility.

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