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Construction Depot

Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

March 16, 2015


Avoiding carbon monoxide at home and at work

Carbon monoxide alarm

Now that you have set your clocks forward one hour, you should check the batteries in your carbon monoxide alarms at home and make sure they are up to code. Why is that a good idea?

Carbon monoxide (CO) robs your blood of oxygen when it enters your lungs. That means less oxygen for your heart, brain, and other vital organs. Headache, fatigue, dizziness, and drowsiness are warning signs. Large amounts of carbon monoxide can overcome you without warning, causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.

CO alarms are essential for any home with fuel-burning appliances such as a furnace, water heater, range, cooktop, or grill. All-electric homes should have CO alarms, too; CO can leak into a house from an attached garage or from a nearby backup generator used during a power outage.

If your CO alarm is a plug-in model and does not have a cord, plug it directly into an outlet that is out in the open and not behind furniture, curtains, or other objects that could restrict airflow.

CO alarms with a digital display should be mounted on a wall at eye level. If the CO alarm is battery powered and does not have a display, mount it anywhere on the wall except within four inches of where the wall meets the ceiling. Air doesn't circulate freely at that level, which will delay the alarm response.

Do not:

  1. Run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  2. Burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  3. Heat your house with a gas oven.
  4. Use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside within 20 feet from a window, door, or vent.

Common CO hazards at the job site

Small gas engines and tools. Too many workers are poisoned because they use small gasoline-powered engines and tools in poorly ventilated areas - even places that many would consider well ventilated, such as parking garages.

Confined spaces. Any worker who enters a confined space needs to be aware of the potential for atmospheric hazards - existing hazards and hazards produced during work. All manholes should be considered confined spaces and appropriate air monitoring should be done before and during entry.

Five ways to keep workers safe

1. Training

Educate workers about the sources of carbon monoxide poisoning, its symptoms, and how to control exposure.

2. Maintenance

Keep internal combustion equipment in good operating condition.

3. Ventilation

Use natural or mechanical ventilation when possible to keep carbon monoxide levels below the permissible exposure limit.

4. Procedures

Have a procedure to ensure the safety of those who work alone indoors with internal combustion equipment.

5. Monitoring

Test air regularly in confined spaces and other areas where carbon monoxide may be present.



In this issue

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But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.

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