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Region 1 News Release: BOS 99-011
Friday, January 22, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald (USDOL) 617-565-2074
Kevin J. Sullivan (CT DPH) 860-509-7270
Dr. Mary Lou Fleissner (CT DPH) 860-509-7740

OSHA AND CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH PARTNER TO BETTER PROTECT WORKERS AGAINST CARBON MONOXIDE HAZARDS

HARTFORD -- To increase awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the State of Connecticut's Department of Public Health (DPH) have formalized a cooperative agreement that will assist the Federal and State agencies in identifying and securing the abatement of hazards posed to Connecticut workers by on-the-job overexposure to carbon monoxide.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by John J. Stanton, Jr., and Clifford S. Weston, OSHA area directors for Connecticut, and DPH Commissioner Stephen A. Harriman, establishes a formal referral system through which each agency will notify the other when it learns of possible work-related carbon monoxide overexposure and poisonings in private sector workplaces in Connecticut.

"Carbon monoxide is a silent hazard, a potential killer present in a variety of work settings," said Stanton. "Currently, much of OSHA's carbon monoxide inspection activity stems from complaints and referrals that come to us after an accident or illness has occurred. This agreement will give us a 'heads up' that will help us to more swiftly identify and reach those workplaces where overexposures occur and thus prompt abatement of the hazard."

"Under the agreement, the DPH will notify OSHA of workplace carbon monoxide exposures reported by physicians, clinicians and laboratories," said Weston. "OSHA will then evaluate the referral, determine the appropriate response, inform DPH of its findings and advise DPH of any potential violations of State rules and regulations concerning carbon monoxide."

Connecticut statutes require that the DPH be notified about all occupational diseases, and instances of carbon monoxide overexposure in all settings, including commercial, industrial, educational and residential environments. This affords DPH the opportunity to conduct investigatory studies or other surveillance activities in order to institute measures to prevent additional exposures. OSHA enforces Federal workplace health standards, which set an exposure limit for carbon monoxide, and require employers to take steps to minimize exposure and otherwise safeguard employees.

"This is a common sense partnership between Federal and State government, with the goal of more effectively protecting Connecticut workers against an often omnipresent on-the-job hazard," said Harriman. "It imposes no new requirements or burdens on Connecticut's employers, yet allows for a more prompt and efficient allocation of our agencies' resources on behalf of the working men and women of this state. Health professionals and the public should be aware of carbon monoxide's telltale signs, and be prepared to take quick action to protect themselves."

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon-containing material, including gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal and wood. CO is hazardous because it replaces oxygen in the blood, interfering with the transport of needed oxygen to cells in the body. Even limited exposure to CO can cause headache, nausea, drowsiness and confusion. Large concentrations of CO can kill within minutes, often without significant warning signs. Symptoms of CO poisoning can mimic those of the flu or food poisoning, making diagnosis and treatment difficult unless a good exposure history is taken.

Initial symptoms of exposure may include headaches, tightness across the chest, nausea, drowsiness, flushed face, dizziness, inattention or fatigue. Continued exposure may lead to lack of coordination, confusion, weakness, loss of consciousness and eventually, death. Poisoning can be reversed if caught in time, but acute poisoning may result in permanent damage to the heart and brain.

The most common source of CO in the workplace is the internal combustion engine. Any machinery or appliance powered by fossil fuel is a source of carbon monoxide, including autos, forklift trucks, propane or gas powered floor buffers, forges, gas-powered hot water heaters, space heaters and gas-fired generators.

OSHA standards restrict the allowable amount of CO in the workplace, limit employee exposure to 50 parts of the gas per million parts of air over an 8-hour workday, and require an employer to take steps to reduce CO levels and remove employees once that threshold is reached. The risk of overexposure increases in winter when traditional sources of ventilation -- windows, doors, vents -- are often closed against low temperatures.

The Hartford Area OSHA office has developed a local emphasis program to reduce employee exposures to carbon monoxide from propane-powered floor buffer exhausts. Select companies within Hartford's jurisdiction will be mailed an informational packet on the hazards associated with carbon monoxide as well as an invitation to attend an OSHA-sponsored outreach seminar that will be scheduled for a later date.

Workers and employers wishing information on OSHA's carbon monoxide standard (or any other OSHA standard) may contact the OSHA area offices in Hartford or Bridgeport. The Hartford office [860-240-3152] covers Hartford, Tolland, Windham, Litchfield and New London counties while the Bridgeport office [203-579-5579] is responsible for New Haven, Middlesex and Fairfield counties.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health can provide information about carbon monoxide through its Division of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health [860-509-7742]. The Connecticut Labor Department's Division of Occupational Safety and Health [860-566-4550] offers a free safety and health consultation service for small employers. Employers' insurance carriers, professional and trade associations and safety or health consultants may also be sources of information and assistance.


The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.

Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.


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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