Gas/Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide gas is a real killer. It’s colourless and odourless and you’d simply not be aware of its presence until you started to experience problems as a result of inhaling it and, in some cases, if you’re asleep for example, it could end up killing you without you even being aware of it.
How is it Produced?Carbon Monoxide can be produced by the incomplete burning of fuels such as coal, oil, gas and wood. As they burn, they use up oxygen from the atmosphere and replace it with Carbon Dioxide which then builds up and, in doing so, it stops the fuels from completely burning which then has the effect of releasing carbon monoxide into the air.
Where is it Found?It can literally be found almost anywhere. Even in our own homes, a defective boiler, gas central heating system or a faulty gas cooker or gas fire has the capacity to give off Carbon Monoxide. It is prevalent when you’re running a car engine and even a charcoal barbecue will produce Carbon Monoxide although, in this instance, it’s relatively harmless as the activity is conducted in open spaces outdoors. Within the workplace however, it could be fatal. Vehicle garages and mines are just two of the more common places where Carbon Monoxide would be present but it can be found in most industrial type premises and in any workplace which is heated by gas.
What Can an Employer do to Minimise the Risks?Any workplace should conduct a full risk assessment when it comes to Carbon Monoxide and either take action to eliminate its presence or to make sure that it’s minimised to the point at which there is little or no risk to the workforce. Defective equipment is one of the biggest causes of Carbon Monoxide poisoning so things such as ventilation, exhaust systems etc should be kept well maintained.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide PoisoningThe types of symptoms you might experience if you have been exposed to Carbon Monoxide will vary depending on the level and length of time you’ve been exposed to it. You might simply suffer a headache, dizziness, nausea or a shortness of breath but if you’ve had prolonged exposure to it, it can also result in severe abdominal pain, can induce vomiting, tiredness and even cause mental confusion and, in the severest of cases, it can also prove fatal.
Some of the symptoms can be relatively mild and as Carbon Monoxide is not easily detectable. It’s often only when you feel really well say, for example, if you’ve been away from work on holiday only to find that your symptoms return when you go back to work, that you’re able to realise that it might originate from your place of work. It’s often useful to ask around other work colleagues to see if they’ve experienced similar symptoms. If you’re still in any doubt, you should seek medical clarification as a simple blood test will usually be sufficient to detect the presence of Carbon Monoxide within your body.
TreatmentIf your symptoms are relatively mild, by removing yourself physically from the environment, you should find that you start to feel better pretty quickly afterwards and then you should report your concerns to your work’s health and safety manager or to another appropriate member of staff.
However, in more serious cases, you might require oxygen treatment or an ECG to allow physicians to determine how well your heart is able to pump oxygen around your body. Even if you don’t die as a result of severe Carbon Monoxide poisoning, it still has the capacity to cause both brain and heart damage and other more serious conditions besides if you have delayed seeking treatment for too long.
All companies should be only too aware of the dangers and risks involved with Carbon Monoxide and they should have taken every possible step to eliminate or minimise as fully as possible, the risks associated with it. If, however, you feel that you have been the victim of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at work due to the company’s negligence, you may be entitled to claim compensation.