Tennessee OSHA Puts Special Emphasis on "The Silent Killer"

Friday, October 31, 2008 | 12:00 pm

Five Workers Hospitalized in 2007,
17 People Killed Outside the Workplace in the Last Two Years

NASHVILLE – Carbon monoxide poisoning is a major source of injury and accidental death both in and outside of the workplace. In 2007, five people were hospitalized in a single exposure. In 2005, two people died from carbon monoxide exposure by running propane buffers, both of which occurred in the workplace.
 According to non-workplace statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health in 2006, there were 11 unintentional deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 150 people suffered carbon monoxide-related injuries. In 2007, six more people died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in Tennessee.
“Because carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer we feel it is very important to familiarize employers and employees with the necessary precautions to prevent their workers from being harmed,” said Jan Cothron, TOSHA Industrial Hygiene Manager.
The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) has instituted a Special Emphasis Program for carbon monoxide. The program was established to focus statewide attention on the problem, reduce employee exposure and eliminate deaths.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and is one of the most common industrial hazards. Mild exposure can cause nausea, dizziness or headaches. Severe poisoning can result in brain damage, heart damage or even death.
The poisonous gas is produced by the incomplete burning of any material containing carbon such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal or wood. Forges, blast furnaces and coke ovens produce carbon monoxide, but one of the most common sources of exposure in the workplace is the internal combustion engine such as small gasoline-powered engines and tools, gasoline or propane-powered forklifts.
Employers can lower the risk of exposure to employees by following a few simple safety rules:
·         Install an effective ventilation system to remove carbon monoxide.
·         Maintain appliances and equipment in good order (preventive maintenance).
·         Consider switching from fossil-fuel powered to battery-powered equipment.
·         Ensure compressors used to supply breathing air are equipped with a high temperature alarm, carbon monoxide alarm or use compressors that are not oil lubricated.
·         Install carbon monoxide monitors or regularly test the air in areas where carbon monoxide is generated.
Only use gasoline, propane or diesel powered engines in a well-ventilated area.
Instruct workers in the hazards, signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure.
For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and workplace safety please call TOSHA consultative services at 800-249-8510. It’s free and confidential.
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