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OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents
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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

DOL Logo OSHA National News Release

U.S. Department of Labor

News Release USDL: 96-242
Wednesday, June 19, 1996 Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151

OSHA Alerts Workers And Employers To Hazards In Transferring Carbon Dioxide

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued additional safety warnings about the dangers of handling carbon dioxide following the death of a Midwest delivery driver. The driver was overcome by carbon dioxide (CO2) gas as he dispensed it from his tractor-trailer to a restaurant carbon dioxide system. The accident prompted the federal agency charged with protecting workers to issue a Hazard Information Bulletin.

In the bulletin, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that high concentrations of CO2, an odorless, colorless gas which displaces oxygen, can cause death. CO2 is denser than air, and high concentrations can occur in open pits and other areas below grade. Depending on the strength of the concentration and length of exposure, lower concentrations may cause symptoms such as headache, sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart beat, shortness of breath, dizziness, mental depression, visual disturbances, or shaking.

Asphyxiation can occur when the gas, dispensed from tank cars and portable containers to stationary low pressure CO2 systems at consumer sites, leaks in unventilated work areas. The dispensing systems are used to supply CO2 to sites dispensing carbonated beverages, greenhouses, and welding fabricators, for example. OSHA recommends that C02 be treated as a material with poor warning properties.

In the Midwest incident, the worker connected a hose from his delivery truck to a restaurant bulk carbon dioxide system through a fill station located on a wall below ground level, just outside the door to the basement. After a half-hour, restaurant employees found him lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairwell. Paramedics were unable to revive him. The accident apparently resulted from a CO2 leak where the delivery hose did not completely seal to the restaurant fill connection. Because the area was below grade, the CO2 accumulated.

These are OSHA's recommendations for transferring carbon dioxide gas:

  • Know the hazards.

  • Inspect and maintain all piping tubing, hoses and fittings at regular intervals and maintain the system in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.

  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation even when carbon dioxide is delivered in enclosed areas or below grade locations that are not confined spaces.

  • Develop and implement procedures to monitor the atmosphere for CO2 and provide local ventilation where levels may exceed the permissible exposure limit.

  • Place appropriate warning signs outside areas where high concentrations of the gas can accumulate.

  • Provide proper lighting to enable workers to work safely.

  • Install new carbon dioxide receptacles at ground level in an open area. If possible, relocate existing fill stations to above-grade locations. When relocation is not feasible, employers should follow the requirements of OSHA's permit-required confined space standard.

The bulletin is being distributed to all area OSHA offices, state plans and consultation programs and also is being made available to appropriate local labor and industrial associations.

For further information on workplace safety and health issues, contact the OSHA area office nearest you or call OSHA's Office of Information and Consumer Affairs at 202-219-8151. The Compressed Gas Association, Inc (CGA), 1235 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202, phone (703) 979-0900, also offers several pamphlets for individuals wanting more information on handling carbon dioxide.

Hazard Information Bulletins (HIBs) are issued to provide relevant information on unrecognized or misunderstood health hazards, inadequacies of materials, devices, techniques, and safety engineering controls. HIBs are initiated based on information provided by field staff, studies, reports and concerns expressed by safety and health professionals, employers, and the public.

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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