Ohio Workers Face Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Because the gas is difficult to detect and of the gradual onset of symptoms, carbon monoxide (CO) is often referred to as a “silent killer.” It is a leading cause of toxic-related deaths and illnesses worldwide. In the U.S. alone, hundreds of people die each years from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning—many of the victims at the workplace.

One of the more common sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the workplace is the internal combustion engine. The obvious occupations at high risk are auto mechanics and others working around automobiles in a body shop or garage.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at-risk occupations include any employee who works in a confined space. Additional work environments with a known increased carbon monoxide exposure risk include boiler rooms, steel mills, breweries, various warehouses, oil refineries, pulp and paper producers and shipyards.

Carbon monoxide exposure to  may be due to the negligence of an employee, defective gas detectors, or workplace management failing to properly ventilate a workspace. Improperly ventilated areas with appliances and engines, particularly in enclosed spaces, may allow carbon monoxide to build up and cause harm to employees. Although most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are mild, some serious complications may result.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati, Ohio Toxic Tort and Personal Injury Attorney, representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of civil litigation claims. 

Carbon Monoxide Exposure Risk

If workplace appliances are serviced and used safely, they should produce safe levels of CO. When management fails to service old appliances like gas fireplaces, boilers, central heating systems, and water heaters, there may be leaks and a risk of CO exposure.

Particularly dangerous work areas include vehicle repair shops, warehouses, refineries, steel mills, boiler rooms, breweries, paper mills and shipyards. Employees working near manholes, splicing vehicles, garages, tunnels, and marine loading docks.

Common sources of Carbon Monoxide may include:

  • Engines running in enclosed spaces—vehicle exhaust
  • Gas-burning furnaces
  • Marine engine exhaust
  • Coal-burning power plants
  • Portable generators
  • Power washers
  • Charcoal grills
  • Marine engines
  • Forklifts
  • Gas-powered heaters
  • Fumes from paint removers and cleaning fluids

Carbon Monoxide Exposure and CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in the bloodstream following acute exposure. When there is an excess of carbon monoxide in the air the body replaces oxygen in red blood cells with carbon monoxide, quickly leading to serious damage.

High levels of CO concentration in the body will prevent sufficient amounts of oxygen from reaching the heart and brain, ultimately leading to suffocation, hemorrhaging, nerve damage, brain damage, and possibly death. Severe CO gas poisoning may cause long-term heart health issues like coronary heart disease.

Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to differentiate from other potential health conditions. Low-level exposure is likely to cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. Some people exposed to CO may feel as though they have the flu. Extended exposure will worsen symptoms and can be accompanied by a rapid pulse, confusion, loss of coordination, or collapse.

If multiple people in the same building have the same symptoms, CO poisoning should be suspected, and safety authorities alerted. The longer individuals are exposed to carbon monoxide, the more severe the symptoms and complications. Within the first hours, an exposed person may experience the following:

  • Memory issues
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Coordination difficulties

Toxic Exposure Prevention

Awareness of the risk is first and foremost. To keep a safe work environment, it is important to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Employers are responsible for educating workers about the sources and work conditions that may result in CO poisoning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published basic precautions to protect workers. Employers can reduce the risks associated with CO exposure with the following:

  • Maintain gas appliances, and use them safely as intended
  • Do not operate gasoline-powered engines or tools inside buildings or enclosed work areas
  • Ensure work areas are well-ventilated and vents are unobstructed
  • Equip all employees with masks and respirators when handling toxic materials
  • Do not leave gasoline-powered motors running in garages or body shops
  • Do not use a generator near company windows or air intakes
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms at workplaces

If you or a loved one has suffered from Carbon Monoxide exposure or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at the workplace, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.