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  • Writer's pictureDale Allen

Explaining the Risks: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a well-known subject; over many years you've been warned to be wary of it in your homes and at your place of work.

Carbon monoxide is a substance that is highly hazardous to humans and it's something that we inadvertently produce through various appliances and machinery that we use on a daily basis, either to make our home or jobs easier.

It is a clear, odourless and tasteless gas and is also known to be produced through animal metabolism in small amounts, which is thought to be a part of normal, everyday biological functions.

But, how do we create carbon monoxide in such dangerous levels?

We humans are always looking to create things that will make our lives more comfortable or easier in a variety of ways and many of those creations are brilliant.

Unfortunately, a great number of them use, or create other, hazardous substances when they're running. This is especially true in poorly maintained, aged or malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances.

Here are the main culprits of carbon monoxide production at home or in the workplace:

  • Cooking appliances,

  • portable generators,

  • furnaces,

  • water heaters,

  • central heating systems,

  • vehicle engines,

  • any other appliance that is fueled.

How do I detect carbon monoxide?

As I said earlier, carbon monoxide is tasteless, odourless and completely colourless, so how can you go about identifying if an area is at risk?

The simplest, and probably safest, way is to invest in carbon monoxide detectors. These devices are similar to a fire detection unit and are easy to install and use.

It is, however, important that you do a little research before you purchase any.

Any detector you consider should be able to emit at least 85-decibels of sound, however, bear in mind that any people in the building with hearing problems will require a louder variation detector in place.

Also, ensure you install the carbon monoxide detectors in the correct places.

If you live or work in a building with multiple floors then it's vital to have at least one on each floor. You should also have at least one carbon monoxide detector for every three rooms on a floor.

Not only that but you need to make sure you install them at the correct height. Many websites or companies would recommend that you place your detectors directly onto the ceiling but this can be exceedingly dangerous.

We already know that carbon monoxide is lighter than air so will always float above it, but when there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide present - meaning there is a nearby, faulty heat source - then it creates a kind of barrier of heated air that can 'hide' the carbon monoxide from detectors.

How do I minimise the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Methods to prevent build-ups of carbon monoxide would depend entirely on the building in question and the relevant risk assessments, but there are some general tips you can use at home or work to ensure you or anyone you know don't catch carbon monoxide poisoning.

It's important to check all of the appliances or machinery that could potentially release carbon monoxide into the area. Ensuring everything is working as intended and that there is no damage will keep that units carbon monoxide production down to it's absolute minimum.

The larger quantities of carbon monoxide released usually means there is a fault an appliance or machine, which should be replaced or repaired immediately upon discovery.

Also be sure that there are detectors present and that there is adequate ventilation throughout the building, especially in areas with fuel burning appliances.

Training is vital

Having someone properly trained in identifying hazards, risk assessments and the implementation of the proper control measures is hands-down the best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is a legal requirement to carry out risk assessments at a place of work, but not at home. If you're looking to ensure your house is safe from carbon monoxide build-ups, having a trained professional round to your house to assess the risks is a very good idea.

People uneducated in proper risk assessment and management can inadvertently miss vital hazards and potentially create new hazards through the use of incorrect control measures.

If you would like to learn more about ensuring your home or workplace is safe from a build-up of carbon monoxide you can take the - entirely free - new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™ where my team and I will teach you the ins and outs of hazard identification, risk assessment and the implementation of safety control measures.

The International Association for Chemical Safety Free Accreditation Course

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