<< Back to Prevention Video (v-Tool): Carbon Monoxide in Construction


In the U.S., more than 800 construction workers die every year while on the job. Many of these deaths happen when workers breathe in harmful chemicals. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of these deaths from breathing in harmful chemicals. It is so dangerous because people can't smell, see, or taste it, and it can kill within minutes. But these deaths can be prevented.

The video you are about to see shows how quickly carbon monoxide can lead to workers' deaths. The video will also show what employers must do so that the work can be done more safely. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace and required protective equipment. You'll see that using the right type of protection saves lives.

Please be advised. The scenes you are about to see deal with deaths at construction sites and might be disturbing for some people. All scenes are based on true stories.

Two workers were framing and finishing the basement renovation of a two-story home. One worker was using a gasoline-powered wet saw to cut a hole in the concrete wall for a window, while another worker was marking lines for the next window to be cut. Two newly cut window holes were sealed so that no fresh air was coming into the basement. As they worked, exhaust from the wet concrete saw entered the air. Many things were in the exhaust, including carbon monoxide. This very dangerous and deadly gas can't be smelled, seen, or tasted, so the workers didn't know they were being harmed. And because no fresh air was coming into their work area, the amount of carbon monoxide continued to increase as the saw was used.

After using the saw on and off for about 3 hours, the worker outlining the new window complained of a headache. She tried to go upstairs and get some fresh air, but she fell to the ground before getting to it. The co-worker turned off the saw and tried to assist her, but he quickly became dizzy and collapsed on the ground also. Co-workers arrived on the scene hours later, but they were too late. Both workers died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Let's look at the events leading up to this tragic incident, and see how it could have been prevented. These workers were in a closed-in space where a gasoline-powered concrete saw was being used. Because there was no fresh air coming into this work area and the exhaust was not released to the outside, the carbon monoxide from the exhaust stayed in the room. There was also no carbon monoxide detector or alarm to warn the workers of the danger. The best way for these workers to stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning is to not use a gasoline powered saw. Instead, they should use a hydraulic or pneumatic concrete saw, which do not produce carbon monoxide.

Let's take a look again at the workers in the basement. Now the workers are using a hydraulic saw and there is no buildup of carbon monoxide. This video shows how using a gasoline-powered saw led to carbon monoxide poisoning, killing these workers. But this is not the only equipment construction workers use that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. It can happen with other fuel-powered tools. Some examples include portable generators, space heaters such as salamanders, trowels, and water pumps.

This example shows the importance of employers following OSHA's standards to ensure that workers are provided with a safe workplace. These types of construction worker deaths are preventable. The protection measures shown here save workers' lives.

Use these protections on the job: it could be the difference between life and death.

If you would like more information, contact OSHA at www.osha.gov or 1-800-321-OSHA that's 1-800-321-6742.