Those who work in construction and heavy industry realize that their jobs pose several risks. Working with heavy machinery or in construction zones makes falling or getting caught in or struck by machinery easy to imagine. However, workers may not immediate think about another very real danger that they face: carbon monoxide poisoning. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, several workers die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. People should be aware of the damage that carbon monoxide can do and some ways that employers can reduce the chances that workers will be exposed to carbon monoxide on the job.
Carbon monoxide exposure harmful
Carbon monoxide forms easily in industrial areas, as it results from the incomplete burning of natural gas and some other carbon-based material such as wood, coal, oil or gasoline. However, people need not work in heavy industry to be exposed to carbon monoxide. One of the most common sources of carbon monoxide in daily life comes from internal combustion engines, so anyone who works near motor vehicles can be at risk.
One of the greatest dangers of carbon monoxide is that it is an odorless gas, so people can be exposed to it and not be aware of the danger they are in. Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood, so eventually a person's vital organs are robbed of oxygen and can no longer function. A large amount of carbon monoxide can make a person lose consciousness and suffocate in a matter of minutes. Other symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: tightness in the chest, dizziness, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, nausea, muscle weakness and confusion. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be treated if caught in time. However, long-term damage to the heart or brain may result from acute cases.
Those who work in the following areas face the greatest risk of carbon monoxide exposure:
- Petroleum refineries
- Pulp and paper production plants
- Around docks
- Near blast furnaces
- Around coke ovens
Preventing carbon monoxide exposure
Employers have an obligation provide employees with a safe work environment. Employers can take steps to prevent workplace injuries from carbon monoxide exposure, including:
- Installing effective ventilation systems
- Following a regular maintenance schedule for equipment and appliances that form carbon monoxide to reduce the amount of the gas they emit
- Replacing gasoline-powered equipment with equipment powered by electricity, batteries or compressed air
- Installing carbon monoxide meters with audible alarms in workplaces
- Providing personal carbon monoxide meters for workers who face carbon monoxide exposure
- Requiring workers to use masks when working in areas with elevated carbon monoxide levels
Speak with an attorney
Not all employers live up to their responsibility to keep workplaces safe for employees. If you have been injured while working, consult an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help you obtain the benefits to which you are entitled.