Colder weather is upon us and most people have turned up the thermostat or started some fires in the wood burner to stay warm. With this cold weather lurks a danger that most of us aren’t aware of until it is too late. Carbon monoxide is a gas byproduct produced by incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas, which is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. When CO is breathed, it displaces the oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large concentrations of CO could overcome you in minutes without warning and cause you to lose consciousness and suffocate.

1 21 15 Danger Poison GasMany appliances, tools, and equipment around the home or workplace can produce CO such as gas hot water heaters, gas furnaces, portable kerosene heaters, propane powered floor buffers, wood burning stoves, forklifts, and automobiles. While there are many potential sources of CO, you can reduce this hazard by following some simple advice below.

  1. Install CO detectors with audible alerts for building occupants.
  2. Maintain appliances and equipment in good working order to promote their safe operation.
  3. If appliances are replaced, then make sure the venting materials are appropriate and approved for this purpose.
  4. Prohibit the use of tools and equipment that generate CO in poorly ventilated areas.
  5. Install an effective ventilation system that will remove CO from work areas.
  6. Educate your employees about the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning as well as the symptoms and control of CO exposure.

Find additional information about CO from the following sources:

Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers (Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips (National Fire Protection Association)

-Mike Rosenau