February 12, 2019
Contact: Office of Communications
U.S. Department of Labor Urges Employers to Prevent Worker
Exposure to Carbon Monoxide from Portable Generators
And Other Equipment
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers to take necessary precautions to protect workers from the serious and potentially fatal effects of carbon monoxide exposure.
Recent incidents highlight the need to educate employers and employees about the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure from portable generators and other equipment in enclosed spaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas, so it is important that employers and employees alike know the symptoms of overexposure. These can include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, or tightness across the chest. Severe carbon monoxide overexposure can cause neurological damage, coma, and death.
Every year, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of employees nationwide, usually when fuel-burning equipment and tools are used in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation. The danger increases during the winter months when this type of equipment is used in indoor areas that have been sealed tightly to block out cold temperatures and wind.
In addition to portable generators and space heaters, sources of carbon monoxide can include anything that uses combustion to operate, such as power tools, compressors, pumps, welding equipment, furnaces, gas-powered forklifts, and motorized vehicles.
To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace, employers should install an effective ventilation system, avoid the use of fuel-burning equipment and vehicles in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces, and use carbon monoxide detectors in areas where the hazard may exist. They should also take other precautions as outlined in OSHA’s Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet. Additional OSHA resources include videos (in English and Spanish), QuickCards (in English and Spanish) and a fact sheet on portable generator safety.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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