Carbon monoxide is deadly, the symptoms are deceiving and the gas is incredibly hard to detect. This is why it is essential that you know how to keep your crew safe from carbon monoxide poisoning on a job site.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, inhaling the gas replaces oxygen in the blood, leading to sudden illness or death. It is regarded as the most common cause of poisoning in the construction industry. Carbon Monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless, making understanding the creation of the gas essential.
How is Carbon Monoxide Created?
Carbon monoxide is created when materials containing carbon are burned such as wood, coal, charcoal, diesel or gas. Industries most susceptible to the creation of carbon monoxide include petroleum refineries, fire-fighting, kilns and foundries.
On the job site, gas-powered tools including generators, air compressors, concrete cutters and water pumps are especially dangerous. Construction workers also at times use heat in the winter months when a stable ground temperature is required to pour concrete. If you are using these machines, ensure there is proper ventilation.
Carbon monoxide is incredibly difficult to detect so workers must be aware of the symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
The symptoms of carbon monoxide can be easily confused with fatigue or the common cold, making it crucial to know what you are on the lookout for. The site supervisor should lookout for the most common symptoms including headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, weakness and tightness in the chest. These initial symptoms can be quickly accompanied by a rapid pulse, confusion and a loss of coordination leading to unconsciousness.
A sudden exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to convulsions, coma or death all within a few minutes. Although a person may recover from the episode, depending on the degree and length of exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause long term damage. Implications range from permanent brand damage, damage to the heart, miscarriages and death.
These symptoms need to be carefully monitored in persons who are more susceptible to poisoning. Children take breaths more frequently than adults do, causing them to be a higher risk factor. Carbon monoxide reaches unborn babies faster than the carrying mother, making them more susceptible to poisoning. Older adults are more susceptible to develop brain damage and people with anaemia or weak immune systems are more likely to get sick from exposure.
Every job site needs a supervisor who knows the warning signs and what to do in the case of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What do I do if Someone is Exposed to Carbon Monoxide?
Even if the warning signs are subtle you should immediately remove yourself and the affected persons from the premises, seek fresh air and contact emergency services. If the person is unconscious and you cannot move them, turn off all appliances, open doors and windows and call triple zero.
Exposure to carbon monoxide is life-threatening and should be taken extremely seriously. However, the best way to ensure there is no medical issues or poisonings is to take proper precautionary methods before using any machinery which creates carbon monoxide.
How can I use a Generator Safely?
Generators can be extremely useful when used properly, here are a few do’s and don’ts to abide by:
- Only place the generator outside under an open canopy-like structure.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Ensure the generator is kept dry at all times.
- Dry hands before touching the generator.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator.
- Store fuel for your generator in labelled non-glass safety containers outside of the home and away from the fuel-burning appliances.
- Only refuel the generator when it is turned off and completely cooled down, otherwise, a fire can ignite.
- Use generator in rain or wet conditions.
- Try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet causing back feeding.
- Connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances without getting a licensed electrical contractor.
How can I use an Air Compressor Safely?
Air compressors can produce carbon monoxide when overheating and will continue to run at high temperatures. Check through these do’s and don’ts to ensure the safety of your workers:
- Supply a breathing air system that is designed for safe use with supplied-air respirators.
- Periodically test the air quality with a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Install a high-temperature protection cut off switch on oil-lubricated compressors.
- Allow the machine to go un-inspected by competent persons.
- Not schedule maintenance regularly.
- Let staff go unaware of the risks associated with the use of compressed air for breathing air.
How about other machines?
Concrete cutters in unventilated areas can easily reach CO levels in excess of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of air near the source. Even in areas with reasonable ventilation like structures with open roofs, CO levels can reach 400pm. Other gas-operated machines to look out for include chainsaws, forklifts and floor polishers.
The most important way to reduce carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure the machine is not used in small tight areas where there isn’t much ventilation available. Types of these areas include underground car parks, small sheds and cool rooms. The gas can reach exceedingly dangerous levels in these areas and kill people in moments. It is also important to keep vents free from debris, flying debris can block ventilation openings.
Change to Battery-Powered Vehicles and Equipment
The best way to keep your workers safe on a job site is to change to battery-powered machines. You can find a number of machines to hire on iSeekplant. By hiring battery-powered machines you will save on the cost of oil, parts, labour and stabilizers. Find the best type of battery-powered machine needed for your job here.