Two incidents related to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning have taken place at Manitoba workplaces in recent weeks. In one case, a person died after being overcome by undetected CO in an office building.
CO is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness and nausea; these are often mistaken for other illnesses, such as food poisoning and the flu.
SAFE Work Manitoba reminds employers that if CO is generated at their workplaces, they must take steps to ensure the concentration does not exceed an average of 25 parts per million over an eight-hour work shift. Employers must:
- monitor the concentration of CO in the air on a regular basis (in locations where CO is present)
- regularly inspect and maintain all equipment that produces CO to ensure there is no leakage
- make sure that first aid responders in the workplace are trained to identify the effects of carbon monoxide exposure and know how to respond to potential situations involving poisoning
- educate workers on the early warning signs of CO poisoning
- ensure an alarm and evacuation plan exists in preparation for a potential CO leak that could threaten the health of workers
- eliminate the CO hazard when working indoors by using equipment powered by electricity or compressed air (when reasonably practical)
- install CSA-approved CO detectors in the workplace (when reasonable and appropriate).