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OSHA releases fact sheet on carbon monoxide poisoning

When the weather gets colder in Pennsylvania, the risk of carbon monoxide exposure for workers increases. To help reduce the risk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a communiqué to employers about the potential hazards of carbon monoxide. The administration also has a fact sheet pamphlet written for employers. This sheet provides techniques for minimizing exposure to workers.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is undetectable by smell or sight. Inhalation in smaller amounts can cause sickness. Inhalation in larger amounts or over prolonged periods can be fatal. In commercial or industrial settings, the main source is through the combustion of fossil fuels, including wood, kerosene, gasoline and diesel fuel.

When lower winter temperatures come along, many are tempted to burn these fuels inside for heat without proper ventilation. Some auto shops may not properly ventilate vehicle exhausts while undergoing repairs and maintenance. These mistakes can affect a worker's health. The risk is too great for workers to rely on sloppy practices.

Proper ventilation measures should be checked before the cold season begins and periodically during the season. For heat sources, flues and exhaust pipes should be cleaned and inspected for leaks. Workers should be instructed on the best ventilation practices. Most importantly, one or more strategically placed carbon monoxide detectors should be positioned throughout a worksite. Detectors are a small investment that can reduce large health risks.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is an occupational disease. Therefore, damages from exposure can be repaid under workers' compensation. The health damage could range from short-term dizziness and nausea to long-term neurological damage or death. An employee who is experiencing such symptoms may want to reach out to a workers' compensation attorney.

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