Carbon Monoxide in the Workplace

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Exposure to it can cause sickness or even death.

Almost every home and apartment is outfitted with both a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector. While most people understand what the former is for, the latter might be a source of confusion. Another thing that you might not know about CO is that it often injures employees while on the job. Here’s what you need to know about this hazard.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that frequently causes sickness or death. It can strike at home or in the workplace and is usually produced by combustion. In general, children and the elderly are most at risk, but anybody can be affected.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms you might experience from CO exposure depend on the levels of it. At the lower end of the spectrum, you will feel dizzy and have extended headaches. Moderate levels lead to more severe symptoms like intense nausea and convulsions. Finally, the highest levels cause loss of consciousness and death.

Acute vs Extended

A critical detail that will affect your symptoms and potential for benefits is whether you experience acute or extended exposure. The following are explanations for each.

Acute – This type of exposure describes a single event in which you inhale too much CO. These cases will lead to straightforward workers’ compensation claims.

Extended – The second type is extended, which describes exposure that takes place slowly over weeks or months. This variant will be slightly hard to prove but is still worth pursuing.

How You Could Be in Danger

The thing that makes CO especially dangerous is the fact that it is colorless and odorless. The result of these features is that it might sneak up on you without detection, unlike a more apparent hazard. The two factors that are most dangerous are combustion and enclosed spaces. The former can be caused by vehicle exhaust, engines, grills, forklifts, furnaces and much more. The latter is self-explanatory.

Safety Tips

The following are a few of the best ways to keep yourself safe from CO exposure.

Proper Maintenance – One of the top causes of carbon monoxide is machinery that does not work correctly. As a result, it adds a disproportionate amount of this gas into the air. Proper maintenance can help you avoid this danger.

Workplace Logistics – As we mentioned above, enclosed spaces are prone to high levels of CO. For this reason, supervisors should keep all combustion activities outside or in well-ventilated areas.

Symptom Recognition – If you feel any exposure symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak up. Trust your gut and realize that checking for carbon monoxide is always worth the trouble.

When it comes to workplace injuries, half the battle is education. Now that you’ve read this article, you’ve done your part in understanding the potential hazard that is carbon monoxide. Your next step is doing everything you can to lessen your exposure at work, which will reduce your risk a great deal. Lastly, you can speak with a Kansas City workers compensation lawyer if you ever sustain a workplace injury or suffer due to carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace.

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Updated: August 21, 2019

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