Carbon monoxide can build up quickly and overcome you in minutes without warning and cause unconsciousness and death. From 2005 through 2006, six workers died as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning while at work in Massachusetts, including: In 2005, two tile installers, a 48-year-old male and a 52-year-old female, died from CO poisoning while installing tile in a home under construction; there was a gasoline-powered generator operating in the garage and a propane heater operating in the house. In 2006, a 54-year-old male mechanic died from CO poisoning while sitting in a box truck's cab with a gasoline-powered generator operating in the back of the truck. In 2006, a 43-year-old male finish carpenter died from CO poisoning while working inside a metal storage container with a gasoline-powered generator operating to power a light. In 2006, a 38-year-old male dock worker died from CO poisoning while using a gasoline-powered pressure washer to clean a freshwater tank on a fishing vessel. As with most work-related fatalities, these deaths could have been prevented. Place fuel-burning equipment outdoors, away from open windows, doors and vents. What is Carbon Monoxide? Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced by burning fuel, such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal or wood. When fuel-burning equipment, tools and appliances are used in enclosed places, or places without good ventilation, CO levels can build up quickly. How to prevent CO poisoning in the workplace: Avoid using fuel-burning equipment indoors or in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces, such as inside houses, garages, crawl spaces, basements, storage areas and tanks. Place fuel-burning equipment outdoors away from windows, doors or vents which could allow CO to enter and build up in the work area. Use tools powered by electricity, batteries, or compressed air when working indoors. If fuel-burning equipment must be used indoors, be sure to vent equipment exhaust outdoors and provide fresh air ventilation to the work area. Even with doors and windows open, CO levels from fuel-burning equipment can still reach dangerously high levels quickly.
Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 250 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108