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Carbon monoxide dangers in the workplace

Nearly everyone understands the importance of having a carbon monoxide detector in their home. Those who heat their homes with natural gas or wood have a valid risk of succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning while they sleep or even when relaxing with their families. However, you and other Indiana residents may not think as often about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning at work, which can occur as easily as it might at home.

What exactly is carbon monoxide poisoning? According to the Mayo Clinic, this extremely hazardous event can occur if you have too much carbon monoxide in your bloodstream. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of fuel burning, most often associated with natural gas, propane, wood and charcoal. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when there is insufficient ventilation in an enclosed space.

The following examples illustrate how you could suffer from a job-related carbon monoxide poisoning incident:

  • A work truck has been idling for some time in your workplace’s small garage, where you spend a significant amount of time.
  • The air conditioning and heating ventilation system in your office recently became blocked, unknown to you and your co-workers.
  • You did not know a co-worker closed the flue to the wood burning stove in your office before you turned it on.
  • You are sitting in your work truck letting it warm up, without realizing a pile of snow is blocking the exhaust.

You can’t detect carbon monoxide in the air yourself by seeing, smelling or tasting it. You might notice symptoms like a dull headache, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting. These are warning signs for you and your co-workers to get outside immediately and seek medical attention, since carbon monoxide poisoning can cause organ damage or be fatal.

If your workplace relies on fuel that produces carbon monoxide, a detector is essential, as well as regular maintenance of the HVAC and ventilation systems. You may be eligible for workers’ compensation if your employer’s negligence resulted in carbon monoxide poisoning.

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