Loss Control Insights
Carbon Monoxide Exposure in Colder Weather
Solving the problem of energy conservation during winter months often creates another problem for many businesses—increased carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide is present in nearly all workplaces. When you shut overhead doors and windows to keep cold air out, the levels of carbon monoxide can easily build up, especially in facilities with fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, welding and cutting operations, and fuel-burning heaters.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, and its effect at low levels may not be immediately noticeable. Regardless of the season, carbon monoxide can’t be completely eliminated from the workplace. Your best bet is to reduce the level of carbon monoxide as much as possible through a combination of engineering and administrative controls.
Start With Better Ventilation
For industrial processes, effective ventilation is your first line of defense to reduce carbon monoxide exposure. The Industrial Accident Prevention Association shares these tips to ensure good ventilation:
- Direct airflow away from the worker’s breathing zone
- Place the exhaust hood opening of the ventilation system as close to the source of contaminated air as possible
- Avoid cross drafts
- Supply clean, fresh air to replace exhaust air
- Discharge contaminated air away from openings that draw air indoors
Modify Equipment and Processes
Upgrading or modifying processes and equipment can also help reduce carbon monoxide generation. For example, LP or gas-powered forklifts should be serviced annually or replaced with electric vehicles. The chimneys and vents of gas-fired furnaces should be checked regularly to ensure they are not emitting carbon monoxide back into the facility. You should also spot monitor any gas-powered equipment used indoors for unacceptable levels of carbon monoxide emissions.
Education and Training
- Identify equipment or processes that generate carbon monoxide
- Recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure
- Apply appropriate first aid measures for carbon monoxide exposure
Although you can’t see it or smell it, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of chemical poisoning in the workplace. Count on EMC® loss control experts to help you assess the extent of the problem and recommend actions to keep your employees safe from exposure to carbon monoxide.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- IAPA Carbon Monoxide Information