Safety Spotlight: Carbon Monoxide

Safety Spotlight: Carbon Monoxide

I think we can all agree that in the winter months we hope to work on projects that are at least semi-enclosed, at least part of the time. It’s nice to get out of the cold, the snow, and the wind especially when we are working.

Sometimes this means we have to use poly to cover windows, door opening, or even entire sides of buildings to keep the cold air from entering the space. It also means we will be utilizing temporary heat sources. These heaters add a new risk to our jobsites by introducing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO). Therefore these heaters must be set up and monitored properly.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is heavier than air and gathers in low spaces first. CO can build up when you use any tools or equipment that use non-electric or compressed air power and is incredibly dangerous! Anyone suffering symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should be moved to fresh air immediately and watched closely to ensure they do not lose consciousness.

Signs of CO poisoning:

  1. Dull headache
  2. Weakness
  3. Dizziness
  4. Nausea/vomiting
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Confusion
  7. Blurred vision

So, how do you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning on our jobsites?

  1. Keep the site properly ventilated – even if the heat is on, crack some windows to keep fresh air flowing into the space.
  2. If unable to keep windows open, run carbon monoxide monitors at all times. These will notify you if carbon monoxide levels get too high.
  3. Set up heaters outside with the hot air being blown into the space. This is the ideal option for keeping everyone safe as this will draw fresh air into the space however, if using this option, make sure there is enough space between the heater and a building to allow it to properly ventilate.
  4. Bonus Home Tip – if you live in a home that uses natural gas or LP, keep a carbon monoxide monitor in the basement and remember to check the batteries regularly.

To be safe when temporary heaters are in use, regularly gauge how you are feeling and keep an eye on those around you. If you or anyone you are working with feels any of the above symptoms it is best to be overly cautious and get outside in Iowa’s fresh air. As usual, look out for each other so everyone goes home safely, everyday.

By: Alec Schaufenbuel