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Detecting Carbon Monoxide in the Workplace

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Workplace


While CO2Meter.com is often recognized as a leader in providing carbon dioxide (CO2) solutions, the topic of carbon monoxide (CO) safety is one we respond to, daily.


With the winter months ahead, carbon monoxide awareness tends to rise and the reputed "silent killer" that comes from the incomplete burning of fuel is in full force. Whether you are in your home, office, or commercial setting, the burning of gasoline, wood, coal, propane, or natural gases can all produce CO in the hazardous concentrations.


What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?

Vastly different from Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide (CO), is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is often undetectable, and yet can cause severe negative health effects if occupants are caught off guard or not aware of potential exposures.

Furthermore, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than 400 people in the U.S. experience fatality from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning each year. In addition, more than 20,000 individuals visit the hospital emergency rooms and 4,000 individuals are often in critical care.

With so many potential hazardous areas such as fuel from automobiles, stoves, grills, fireplaces, space heaters, or furnaces, it is important to have a CO monitor to mitigate potential injuries from occurring. Because, when carbon monoxide gas accumulates in indoor spaces it can quickly poison both humans and animals. Just opening a window or entryway does not guarantee you are safe.

Monitoring Carbon Monoxide in Indoor Spaces

One of the most common areas of carbon monoxide in the workplace is typically near combustion engines. For those working around automotive vehicles, boiler rooms, blast furnaces, breweries, warehouses, or steel producers, having a carbon monoxide detector is critical. Because carbon monoxide exposure can directly affect the heart, lungs, organs and tissues once inhaled it will also greatly diminish your bodies oxygen carrying capacity. 

For many individuals, carbon monoxide poisoning can also go unnoticed at first. Since symptoms first appear as headaches, dizziness, or fatigue, initial symptoms may not appear as significant. However, with added exposure coworkers, occupants, or customers can experience unconsciousness in just minutes. The typical first reaction to carbon monoxide (CO) exposure also may vary depending upon individual age, health, and fitness. Take for example pregnant women or elderly that may have physical conditions - they would be affected differently than an average 30-50 year old healthy adult. 

In normal operation and use these devices and appliances release such small amounts of CO that you’d never notice. Measured in Parts Per Million (ppm) CO in your home is normally less than 1-2 ppm. But it only takes 25-35 ppm to make you sick – headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and weakness are all symptoms of CO exposure.

OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control list 50 ppm as the evacuation level for CO exposure. So, you can see why more than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms annually with CO poisoning symptoms.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Personal CO Safety Monitor (SAN-30)

As easy as it is to get sick from carbon monoxide it's easier to prevent CO poisoning incidents from occurring. At CO2Meter, we believe awareness is key.

It is more important than ever to continually educate workers, colleagues, and family members about the potential hazard areas that may result in direct CO poisoning.

To reduce CO exposure, try these easy and low-cost tips recommended by OSHA:

  • Test air regularly in areas where CO may be present, including confined spaces. 
  • Never use a portable generator inside. They are built to be weather proof and used outside.
  • Consider switching from gasoline-powered equipment to equipment powered by electricity, batteries or compressed air if it can be safely used.
  • Purchase and install a battery-operated CO detector in your home. They cost less than $30 at your local hardware store, and you should already have one if you have gas heat or cooking in your home.
  • Install CO detectors with audible alarms. (We recommend the SAN-30 at CO2Meter.com
  • If you have natural gas or propane heating or cooking appliances contact your gas provider, local HVAC contractor, or plumber to provide regular inspection and service for your appliances.
  • If you have a fireplace call a chimney sweep to have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Clogs and buildup can cause CO to back-up in to your home or worse, a chimney fire.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Cook using a charcoal grill away from your home. 

In addition, portable generators have become popular due to their low cost and ease of use around the winter season and emergencies. National retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot offer “seasonal discounts” on generators with costs as low as $229. Add in a few gallons of gas and time to connect your devices and your home can be powered for days.

But these generators come with a silent and deadly side effect: they also can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide too. When a combustion engine is running the exhaust of the engine contains trace amounts of carbon monoxide (CO).  Any device with a combustion engine like generators, will all emit CO. Thus, prevention is the best approach with the use of appliances that generate carbon monoxide.

Furthermore, be sure to install CO detectors and have peace of mind for your family, colleagues, and staff year round. We hope that this quick educational guide was helpful and you are able to safeguard knowing what to look out for and what to do.

    If you or any of your family, friends, or coworkers exhibit signs of CO poisoning call 9-1-1 right away.

    For more information on carbon monoxide safety solutions, contact us today. 

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