It is estimated that six people in Ireland die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year. Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week aims to highlight the fact that carbon monoxide can, and does kill.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is hard to detect. It can be produced by the burning of any fuels; coal, turf, oil, gas, petrol, diesel and wood. Carbon monoxide poisoning can therefore occur in any industry or commercial setting.
The main route workers are exposed to carbon monoxide is by inhalation of the gas or absorption through the skin or eyes. Once absorbed, carbon monoxide decreases the bloods ability to carry oxygen to the tissues, the tissue becomes starved of oxygen and begins to suffocate, malfunction, and die. Inhalation can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, rapid breathing, unconsciousness and death and at high concentrations it can kill in less than three minutes.
Employers should be aware of the fuels they burn, that the appliances installed are regularly serviced and maintained, and their potential concentration levels of carbon monoxide emissions. Employers should engage in preventative measures such as including annual servicing of fuel-burning appliances by a competent person. They should provide local exhaust ventilation or respiratory protective devices for high risk areas. The employer should engage in occupational monitoring programmes such as health surveillance for each employee exposed to carbon monoxide at potentially high concentrations.
For more detailed guidelines on how to help prevent carbon monoxide exposure in your workplace follow the link below to the HSA’s information sheet on Carbon Monoxide.
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