Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Although it has no odor, it is often mixed with other gases that do have an odor. So you can inhale carbon monoxide along with gases you can smell and not even know that it is present. Harmful levels of carbon monoxide may be present in boiler rooms, breweries, warehouses, petroleum refineries, pulp and paper production facilities, steel production facilities; around docks, blast furnaces, or coke ovens. Occupations that are most at risk include welders, garage mechanics, firefighters, carbon-black makers, organic chemical synthesizers, metal oxide reducers, longshore workers, diesel engine operators, forklift operators, marine terminal workers, toll booth or tunnel attendants, taxi drivers, and vehicle inspection checkpoint personnel.

What are the effects of carbon monoxide on the human body?

Carbon monoxide is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of carbon monoxide can overcome humans in minutes without warning, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. The effects of carbon monoxide on the body include:

1. Tightness across the chest
2. Headache
3. Fatigue
4. Dizziness
5. Drowsiness
6. Nausea
7. Vomiting
8. Mental confusion
9. Loss of consciousness
10. Fainting
11. Death by suffocation

What controls may be used to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning?

1. Report any situation that may cause carbon monoxide accumulation
2. Observe ventilation systems during facility and site inspections
3. Report complaints of dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea
4. Avoid overexertion if you suspect carbon monoxide accumulation and evacuate the affected area
5. Avoid the use of combustible engines inside areas where ventilation systems do not adequately vent carbon monoxide

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