CO is a poisonous gas emitted by petrol, gas and to a lesser extent, diesel combustion engines powering many types of portable construction equipment.
CO is colourless, tasteless and odourless, so in poorly ventilated or low-lying workplaces it has the potential to go undetected and build up to dangerous and even fatal levels. Areas with increased risk of CO accumulation are:
- enclosed spaces such as inside a room, stairwells where the bottom door is closed and lift pits
- low-lying outside areas such as trenches, pits and shafts
If inhaled, CO interferes with the movement and use of oxygen in body tissues, and can cause chemical asphyxiation by displacing oxygen from the bloodstream. Exposure to CO can cause headaches, drowsiness, irritability, impaired judgement, convulsions, unconsciousness, coma or death.
When using combustion engine powered equipment such as concrete cutters, brick saws and generators, there is always potential for the equipment to contaminate the atmosphere. Even when the equipment is set up and operated outdoors, the emitted CO can enter and accumulate inside structures via open windows, doors or vents.
A safe work method statement (SWMS) must be prepared for work that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere. Appropriate controls must be identified to ensure CO does not accumulate and put people at risk.
Workers must be provided with information, instruction and training as necessary, to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risk to health.
For more information see:
- WorkSafe Victoria’s safety alert on carbon monoxide poisoning and LPG powered floor cleaning equipment
- WorkSafe Western Australia’s guidance note – prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning
- OHS Reps webpage on carbon monoxide
Source: WorkSafe Victoria