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GS PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

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					GS 46          PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

                                                                Incorrectly installed and   malfunctioning
                                                                combustion-based heating appliances have
                                                                frequently caused poisoning in domestic
                                                                settings.

                                                                However, the carbon monoxide present in the
                                                                exhaust gases of internal combustion engines
                                                                (petrol, diesel or LPG) account for the majority
                                                                of man-made emissions and the resultant
                                                                workplace hazards, eq. in garage work and in
                                                                the use of forklift trucks inside buildings, are
                                                                widespread and often unappreciated.

                                                                It should be understood that a situation
                                                                accepted as safe on the basis of past
                                                                experience can suddenly become extremely
                                                                hazardous if the ventilation is reduced or the
                                                                rate or duration of carbon monoxide production
                                                                increases.
INTRODUCTION
Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most common                         HEALTH EFFECTS
single cause of poisoning in industry as well as                Carbon monoxide has long been known to
a frequent cause of both accidental and                         combine with haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying
deliberate poisoning in non-industrial settings. It             component in the blood, decreasing the
is a colourless, odourless, non-irritating gas                  capacity of blood to carry oxygen to the tissues,
with no inherent warning properties. For that                   and it has been more recently recognised that
reason, its presence is usually undetected                      carbon monoxide can also affect cells and
unless symptoms of intoxication develop and,                    tissues directly.
because the early symptoms of poisoning are
non-specific (headache and nausea), episodes                    The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure,
of significant carbon monoxide exposure can                     with increasing severity of poisoning are:
and do occur without the problem being                              headache
recognised.                                                         nausea
                                                                    vomiting
SOURCE OF EXPOSURE                                                  weakness
Carbon monoxide is produced whenever                                breathlessness
organic material such as wood, paper, oil,                          drowsiness, irritability and impaired
petrol, gas or other carbonaceous material is                       judgement
burned in a limited supply of air or oxygen                         collapse, coma and death
resulting in incomplete combustion.
Examples of well recognised industrial sources                  If the lack of oxygenation of tissues associated
include:                                                        with carbon monoxide poisoning is prolonged
     cupolas in iron and steel foundries                        and severe, permanent pathological changes,
     catalytic cracking units in petroleum                      eg. brain damage may result.
     refineries
     sintering of blast furnace feed in sintering               There is also considerable evidence to suggest
     plants.                                                    that both acute and chronic exposure to low
                                                                levels of carbon monoxide can affect the heart
Carbon monoxide is also a major hazard for                      and blood vessels and this may be an important
firefighting services.




 This information is provided to offer guidance on a particular aspect of legislation. It is not to be taken as a
 statement of law and must not be construed to waive or modify any legal obligation
                                                                -2-



cause for the association between cigarette                                  Internal     combustion      engine-powered
smoking and heart disease.                                                   generating equipment must not be used in
                                                                             enclosed or partially enclosed spaces,
DIAGNOSIS                                                                    especially mine shafts.
Exposure to a known source of carbon                                         Where motor vehicles may be operated in
monoxide is the most important diagnostic clue                               enclosed areas, eg. workshops, the
in a person or persons suffering from the                                    potential for carbon monoxide build-up in all
non-specific symptoms described previously,                                  weather,      ventilation   and     operating
and identification, assessment and correction of                             conditions must be assessed and
the source should be undertaken as soon as                                   preventative measures implemented as
possible. Information about the duration and                                 indicated. Flexible exhaust ducting for
level of the exposure will help in the                                       motor vehicle exhausts will be necessary in
assessment of the severity of the poisoning of                               many workshops to ensure safety.
the patient or patients.                                                    Internal combustion engine (including LPG)-
                                                                             powered forklift trucks must not be used in
FIRST AID                                                                    areas where adequate ventilation cannot be
If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected,                                   guaranteed under all possible operating
urgent medical assessment is mandatory,                                      conditions (eg. when doors and windows
even if full recovery has apparently occurred.                               are closed in winter or for any reason
Oxygen, if available, should be given via a                                  ventilation is decreased). Certain areas, eg.
tight-fitting face mask and the patient                                      freezer rooms are, of necessity, poorly
transported without delay to hospital. Where a                               ventilated and internal combustion engine
hyperbaric chamber is available, the preferred                               powered forklifts must not be used. Electric
method of treatment in severe carbon monoxide                                forklifts and mechanical manual handling
poisoning is with hyperbaric oxygen.                                         devices are acceptable alternatives.
                                                                             In enclosed situations, where the ventilation
PREVENTION                                                                   is assessed as adequate (under all
Because carbon monoxide production is                                        forseeable conditions) to allow the use of
widespread, the most important way of                                        LPG-powered forklifts, the state of tune and
preventing poisoning is to recognise and correct                             CO emission level of each forklift truck
sources of exposure in situations that have                                  should be assessed daily. Carburettors
been wrongly assumed to be safe. Liquefied                                   should be tamper-proof to prevent
Petroleum Gas (LPG)-powered forklifts are                                    unauthorised adjustment, eq. by operators.
commonly used in poorly ventilated areas on                                  A range of devices is available to monitor
the assumption that little carbon monoxide is                                carbon monoxide levels and to warn, by
produced. Although this might be true under                                  way of audible and visible alarms, if
ideal circumstances, changes in the state of                                 potentially     hazardous      levels     are
tune or operation of catalytic converters can                                approached. However, these should only
cause dramatic and unsuspected increases in                                  be used to confirm that safe conditions
the emission of carbon monoxide causing a                                    have been achieved. If there is any
very dangerous situation.                                                    significant possibility of unsafe levels,
                                                                             corrective measures to prevent carbon
                                                                             monoxide build-up must be implemented.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the
following guidelines should be followed:
     Motor vehicles must be designed and                               SUMMARY
     maintained so that exhaust gases cannot                           Carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly from
     enter the cabin and affect occupants.                             LPG-powered forklift trucks occurs frequently
     Hazards frequently arise from damaged or                          with little or no warning.
     worn-out     exhaust       systems,      from
     modification of vehicles and when                                 Every workplace should be assessed for
     specialised bodywork is fitted to a                               potential CO hazards and definitive corrective
     commercial vehicle chassis.                                       measures must be applied whenever a risk can
     All possible sources of carbon monoxide                           be identified.
     inside any building or partially enclosed
     structure must be identified so that build-up
                                                                       For further information contact:
     of hazardous CO levels can be prevented.
                                                                       Dept for Administrative & Information Services
     This includes combustion-based heating                            Workplace Services
     equipment as well as industrial processes                         GPO Box 465 ADELAIDE SA 5001
     that may produce carbon monoxide.                                 Ph: 1300 365 255 (If calling from a mobile phone or from
                                                                           interstate ph: (08) 8303 0400)
                                                                       Website: www.eric.sa.gov.au

                                                                       Issue Date: September 2000

 Safeguard GS46 - Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning continued …
 This information is provided to offer guidance on a particular aspect of legislation. It is not to be taken as a statement of law
 and must not be construed to waive or modify any legal obligation

				
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