01/26/2005

Carbon Monoxide Can Harm The Unsuspecting

After several warehouse workers were hospitalized for symptoms resulting from
carbon monoxide poisoning a hazard alerts was published by the Canadian
government. Propane-powered forklift trucks were reportedly the source of their
carbon monoxide exposure. The warehouse relied on open doors as its only source
of ventilation. There was no mechanical ventilation.

In another incident on board a vessel a crewmember felt dizzy during the night
and got up to open the windows into the galley. The next day, he found that the
other crewmember, who had been sleeping in the bow area, had died. The ship's
engine, located under the floor of the cabin, had a leak in its exhaust system,
which allowed carbon monoxide to seep through to where the crewmembers slept.


Therefore alerts to the public have been issued, stressing the importance of
safety measures such as gas detection and mechanical ventilation to reduce the
risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is generated by gasoline and propane powered engines. The
fact that it is odourless, colourless and tasteless can make it difficult for
people to realize they have been exposed to the gas. The effects of exposure
can range from mild to severe headaches (50 ppm to over 200 ppm); nausea,
vomiting, dizziness, fainting and drowsiness (above 400 ppm); increased
heartbeat, irregular heartbeat (above 1200 ppm); loss of consciousness and
death (above 2000 ppm). At concentrations greater than 5000 ppm, death may
occur in minutes. These symptoms are usually seen sooner or at lower
concentrations of carbon monoxide if there is a heavy workload (increased
breathing rate and increased blood flow).

The Canadian Government of Newfoundland and Labrador recommends that in work
areas such as warehouses, employers should consider using alternatives to
internal combustion engines inside where possible. Where forklifts and other
equipment with internal combustion engines are run inside, the facilities
should have a mechanical ventilation system installed and maintained to control
the levels of exhaust gas to an acceptable level. In addition, where propane
powered forklifts are used inside a building, regular engine tuning and
emission testing should be a part of the equipment's routine maintenance. The
carbon monoxide emissions should be within the maximum levels recommended under
manufacturers' standards. Employers should install carbon monoxide monitors t
hroughout the work area, including adjacent office areas. It is very important
that these CO monitors be maintained as recommended by the manufacturer.
Workers should be educated on the dangers of carbon monoxide and how to
recognize signs of poisoning.

On a sea vessel, a marine grade carbon monoxide detector should be installed.
The Workers' Compensation Board of B.C. recommends configuring the engine
exhaust system and sealing engine compartments to ensure exhaust gases cannot
enter crew spaces. The system should be regularly inspected and maintained. All
crew spaces should have an adequate supply of fresh air.

Further Information:


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety