Yesterday we provided 10 tips for limiting carbon monoxide (CO) exposure in your workplace. Today we turn to the legal, management, and training issues surrounding CO exposure.
The permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 50 parts per million (ppm) of air, or 55 milligrams per cubic meter (mgm3) of air, averaged over an 8-hour work shift (TWA). The American Industrial Hygiene Association recommends a TWA of 25 ppm, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says a level of 1,200 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health.
Workers need to be trained to recognize CO hazards and prevent exposures. Safety Audit Checklists recommends:
-- Make Sure Employees Understand the Hazards. They must realize that even though they can't detect its presence, at sufficiently high concentrations, CO can kill them—and that those levels can build up in a very short time.
-- Teach them to Recognize the Symptoms of Exposure. Employees should understand that CO exposure symptoms can be much like those of the flu or other ailments in the early stages.
-- Remind them to Make Sure their Work Areas are Adequately Vented. Adequate ventilation is usually the best protection against overexposure to carbon monoxide.
-- Encourage them to Report Potentially Hazardous Conditions. Tell your employees to report all symptoms of exposure so that CO levels in the area can be checked and problems can be swiftly corrected.
-- Establish Emergency Procedures. When a CO leak is detected, the area should be immediately evacuated while trained personnel, equipped with protective clothing and supplied air respirators, handle the problem.
-- Require Employees Who Work With Liquid CO to Take Special Precautions. Employees who work with liquid CO should be trained to avoid exposure by treating it as they would any other hazardous chemical.
As we pointed out yesterday, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent or minimize CO exposure in the workplace. Those recommended by Safety Audit Checklists include:
-- Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors In Areas of Likely Exposure. Although CO is invisible and odorless, various sensors can detect and measure its presence in the air and alert workers when levels are dangerous.
-- Make Sure Your Heating System and Other Fuel-burning Equipment are Properly Maintained. To help ensure that fuels burn properly, heating systems and other fuel-burning equipment need regular, thorough maintenance.
-- Check Ventilation Systems. Good ventilation is the key to preventing dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide. In potentially hazardous work areas where windows or doors are closed or too far away, you should use general and local exhaust ventilation to keep CO at safe levels.
-- Check CO Cylinders Regularly. CO cylinders should be stored properly in areas equipped with a detector alarm. Cylinders should also be checked regularly for leaks.
-- Make Sure Employees Take Special Care With Vehicles Used Indoors. Vehicles are a major source of CO hazards. Employees need to take special care when operating fuel-burning vehicles such as forklifts indoors or in such enclosed spaces as a truck trailer or a dead-end aisle.
-- Provide Employees With Supplied Air Respirators When Necessary. When ventilation alone can't afford workers sufficient protection from CO hazards, employees should be provided with supplied air respirators.
-- Make Sure Employees Are Equipped With Other Required PPE. Employees who work with liquid CO also need protection against skin and eye contact. They should, therefore, be provided with impervious clothing, gloves, splash-proof goggles, and face shields.
Thanks to BLR