Staying ahead of carbon monoxide

by on November 1, 2011 · 2 Comments POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Just breathing can be a job hazard if you don’t know what you’re getting into.

Two maintenance workers landed in the hospital after a routine boiler room check because they had no idea carbon monoxide (CO) from malfunctioning equipment was contaminating the air.

The two employees discovered a broken belt on a power venter. As they repaired it, one started to feel dizzy and had to sit down. Both were hospitalized and released.

To protect employees:

    1. Train workers in the warning signs of exposure. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and nausea. If workers suffer these symptoms, they should get out before CO poisoning gets worse, and contact you.
    2. Remind staff about the dangers. Let maintenance workers or anyone else likely to be exposed to CO gas know the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning.
    3. Recommend installing carbon monoxide monitoring systems. Areas that contain fuel burning appliances should have CO monitoring systems, or least CO detectors, installed and operating properly outside the enclosed space.If the CO monitors aren’t there (say, after you install new equipment), recommend them to your safety director. Poll employees on where monitors would be most effective and accessible.
    4. Provide employees with info on emergency response. Employees should know where to go and what to do in an emergency.

Source: NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program.

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2 Comments on This Post

  1. JohnTappa
    December 19, 2011 - 7:44 pm

    Lori, you are completely right. Many businesses are not taking the precautions to protect their employees. I just recently read a newspaper article on several employees getting poisoned by Carbon Monoxide. The interesting thing about this particular situation was that the place of business did not even have equipment that emit this particular toxic gas. The carbon monoxide was brought into the building from an idling vehicle parked directly in front of the place of business. As a business owner, this made me a little nervous, since I did not currently have any precautions in place for carbon monoxide monitoring.
    I began to do a little research on what OSHA may require in the workplace to monitor for carbon monoxide. I couldn’t find anything, other than OSHA has a PEL (Permissable Exposure Limit) for CO in the workplace. They allow up to 50 ppm of CO exposure over an 8-hour work period. NIOSH has an REL (Recommended Exposure Limit) of 35 ppm over an 8-hour work period.
    I have no way of currently monitoring the CO levels in my warehouse, so I began the hunt for equipment that would allow me to do so. I originally thought that I could just install a regular residential CO detector in my offices and warehouse, but I was told by almost every manufacturer I called that I would be voiding the warranty on the CO alarms because they were not meant to be installed in a commercial or industrial environment. I came across a few very expensive commercial CO monitors that would allow me to view the current carbon monoxide levels within my work environment, but the equipment seemed more suited to a large industrial facility and not so much my small warehouse and office space. Plus, the equipment ran into the thousands and also required semi-annual maintenance which also cost money. Not very suitable for my small-business budget.
    I continued my search for a low-to-mid priced piece of commercial equipment that would allow me to meet both the NIOSH and OSHA requirements. That is when I ran across the Protech 8505 commercial CO monitor. This little guy only cost me around $100 and allowed me to monitor for carbon monoxide down to 10 ppm. It keeps an 8-hour TWA (time weighted average) which allows the owner to see what the average CO was over the last 8 hours – thus, allowing you to comply with both OSHA and NIOSH. It goes into alarm at 30 ppm in less than 7 hours and when the CO levels get higher the alarm time gets lower. For instance at 195 ppm the CO monitor will go into alarm in less than 15 seconds. This also allows for my company to meet the NIOSH requirement of no more than 200 ppm exposure at any given time.
    The only thing is that this unit can only monitor up to 1000 sq. ft. of unobstructed space, so I had to purchase 3 for my warehouse and 2 for my offices. You have to check the units each day and keep a physical log of what the 8-hour TWA is so that if you are inspected by OSHA you can prove your compliance. The units have a two year life span, which means that I will have to replace these either annually or every other year to make sure that they are accurate at low levels. But it doesn’t bother me so much because if I went with the multi-thousand dollar units I’m still paying less per year completely replacing the protech 8505 vs. just the maintenance costs on the more expensive units. Anyhow, I thought that I would help eliminate the need for other business owners or safety managers to do the same research I did, jut to come up to the same conclusion. I purchased this unit at an online safety store called the Seaco Company, but it is available elsewhere. They shipped my CO monitors the same day I ordered them and also were able to answer installation questions and the such. Good Luck to the rest of you.

  2. JohnTappa
    December 19, 2011 - 7:44 pm

    Lori, you are completely right. Many businesses are not taking the precautions to protect their employees. I just recently read a newspaper article on several employees getting poisoned by Carbon Monoxide. The interesting thing about this particular situation was that the place of business did not even have equipment that emit this particular toxic gas. The carbon monoxide was brought into the building from an idling vehicle parked directly in front of the place of business. As a business owner, this made me a little nervous, since I did not currently have any precautions in place for carbon monoxide monitoring.
    I began to do a little research on what OSHA may require in the workplace to monitor for carbon monoxide. I couldn’t find anything, other than OSHA has a PEL (Permissable Exposure Limit) for CO in the workplace. They allow up to 50 ppm of CO exposure over an 8-hour work period. NIOSH has an REL (Recommended Exposure Limit) of 35 ppm over an 8-hour work period.
    I have no way of currently monitoring the CO levels in my warehouse, so I began the hunt for equipment that would allow me to do so. I originally thought that I could just install a regular residential CO detector in my offices and warehouse, but I was told by almost every manufacturer I called that I would be voiding the warranty on the CO alarms because they were not meant to be installed in a commercial or industrial environment. I came across a few very expensive commercial CO monitors that would allow me to view the current carbon monoxide levels within my work environment, but the equipment seemed more suited to a large industrial facility and not so much my small warehouse and office space. Plus, the equipment ran into the thousands and also required semi-annual maintenance which also cost money. Not very suitable for my small-business budget.
    I continued my search for a low-to-mid priced piece of commercial equipment that would allow me to meet both the NIOSH and OSHA requirements. That is when I ran across the Protech 8505 commercial CO monitor. This little guy only cost me around $100 and allowed me to monitor for carbon monoxide down to 10 ppm. It keeps an 8-hour TWA (time weighted average) which allows the owner to see what the average CO was over the last 8 hours – thus, allowing you to comply with both OSHA and NIOSH. It goes into alarm at 30 ppm in less than 7 hours and when the CO levels get higher the alarm time gets lower. For instance at 195 ppm the CO monitor will go into alarm in less than 15 seconds. This also allows for my company to meet the NIOSH requirement of no more than 200 ppm exposure at any given time.
    The only thing is that this unit can only monitor up to 1000 sq. ft. of unobstructed space, so I had to purchase 3 for my warehouse and 2 for my offices. You have to check the units each day and keep a physical log of what the 8-hour TWA is so that if you are inspected by OSHA you can prove your compliance. The units have a two year life span, which means that I will have to replace these either annually or every other year to make sure that they are accurate at low levels. But it doesn’t bother me so much because if I went with the multi-thousand dollar units I’m still paying less per year completely replacing the protech 8505 vs. just the maintenance costs on the more expensive units. Anyhow, I thought that I would help eliminate the need for other business owners or safety managers to do the same research I did, jut to come up to the same conclusion. I purchased this unit at an online safety store called the Seaco Company, but it is available elsewhere. They shipped my CO monitors the same day I ordered them and also were able to answer installation questions and the such. Good Luck to the rest of you.

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