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Carbon monoxide poisoning from small gasoline-powered engines: a control technology solution.

Kovein RJ; Earnest G; Mickelsen R; O'Brien D
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1998 May; :77-78
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a lethal poison that is produced when fuels such as gasoline are burned. It is one of many chemicals found in engine exhaust and can rapidly accumulate, even in areas that might appear to be well ventilated. Because CO is colorless, tasteless, odorless, and nonirritating, it can overcome the exposed person without warning. Many workers have been poisoned by CO while using gasoline-powered tools such as high·pressure washers, cement-cutting saws, power trowels, floor buffers, welders, pumps, compressors, and generators in buildings or semienclosed spaces. Many of the poisonings have occurred in the construction industry and agriculture. Hundreds of people have been poisoned because they did not recognize the danger of using small, gasoline-powered engines in poorly ventilated areas. For example, in Colorado 40% (135) of all work-related CO poisonings reported to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment since 1985 have been related to the use of gasoline-powered equipment. Seventeen of these 135 workers lost consciousness during their exposure to emissions from this equipment and 2 workers died. NIOSH researchers have successfully developed an engineering control for retrofitting gasoline-powered tools that frequently cause CO poisoning. The engineering control consists of a commercial CO sensor used in home alarms and was tested on a five-horsepower engine. Instead of using the sensor to warn, additional electronic circuitry has been developed to automatically disable the ignition system of a gasoline-powered engine, causing it to shut down. The ignition system remains disabled until the CO concentration falls below a preselected threshold value. By preventing the generation of potentially lethal gases, the users of these gasoline-powered tools will be protected from acute illness or even death. Additionally, flashing lights and audible alarms were used as a warning during the buildup of hazardous CO concentrations. This control could be adopted by the manufacturers of power tool equipment as a means of reducing the number of CO poisonings that occur every year with these tools, thereby reducing their product liability risks.
Poison-gases; Poisons; Fuels; Exhaust-gases; Power-generation; Power-tools; Gases; Warning-devices; Engineering-controls; Lethal-concentrations; Lethal-dose; Emission-sources; Equipment-design; Equipment-operators; Protective-equipment; Injury-prevention; Mortality-data; Safety-equipment; Ignition-systems; Electronic-circuits
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 9-15, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia
Page last reviewed: April 8, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division