Know the risks of carbon monoxide in the workplace
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless poisonous gas which is often associated with domestic boilers. It’s important to note that carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk anywhere where a fuel-burning appliance is used, especially when they are situated in confined spaces with little ventilation and air flow.
Whether its fuel-fired heating systems, water heaters, cooking appliances or emergency generation and maintenance operations – such as propane powered floor machines – all are potential sources of carbon monoxide.
When carbon monoxide occurs – be it due to faulty installation, poor repairs or insufficient maintenance – it will rapidly fill the space within the plant room before gradually seeping out into other occupied areas of the building.
Carbon monoxide is virtually impossible to detect without the help of a carbon monoxide detector.
If you do have an alarm, it is imperative that there is also an emergency plan and trained personnel to deal with the problem.
Once the alarm sounds, the problem already has or currently is occurring – the risks are already present and if an untrained member of staff tries to address the issue, there could be serious consequences.
If you notice any of the following, your appliance could be faulty and there may be carbon monoxide present. You should have it inspected straight away if:
* Gas flames burn orange or yellow – they should burn blue
* There are soot marks / stains on or above the fuel-fired appliance
* Coal or wood fires are struggling to stay alight
* Fire becomes difficult to ignite
* There is a blocked chimney or flue
* Low or high pressure to the boiler
* Banging or clanking noises from the boiler
* The boiler’s pilot light frequently goes out
* Increased condensation inside the windows
* A musty smell.
Also consider making yourself and colleagues aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, which are very similar to the flu with the exception of a high temperature. Symptoms are usually prevalent at work and subside away from the building (particularly noticeable when away for a week or two).
Mild exposure to carbon monoxide can cause the following:
* Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
* Tiredness and confusion
* Stomach pain
* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can include:
* Impaired mental state and/or change of behavior
* Vertigo (it feels as if the room is spinning)
* Loss of physical co-ordination
* Tachycardia (a heart rate above 100bpm)
* Chest pain
* Loss of consciousness.
If you experience any of the above symptoms and think carbon monoxide may be the cause, seek medical advice immediately and state that you believe you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide.
Also inform management at your workplace so that a thorough investigation and any necessary measures can be taken.