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Quick Guide to Carbon Monoxide – Keep Your Workers Breathing Easy
Posted by David Cant on September 12, 2014

Carbon Monoxide Safety guidelines

gas safe registerA few weeks ago a gas engineer in Suffolk was sentenced to 18 months behind bars because he didn’t service a gas-fired heater correctly.

The next day, when the tenant turned on the heater, he immediately fell ill and unconscious from the fumes – invisible, tasteless, odorless and potentially fatal, as we all know.  Fortunately, he survived.

Whether or not you think the sentence was excessive, carbon monoxide (CO) cannot be taken lightly.  One slip and CO poisoning acts fast on anyone too close – tenants and construction site workers alike.

How to Tell if You’re Breathing CO2

Site worker and night security staff have died on construction sites from CO2 poisoning.

It’s most dangerous because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it.  The gas is produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels – gas, oil, wood and coal.  Of course the primary threat comes from gas.

When breathed in, it stops the blood from carrying fresh oxygen to your cells and organs.  And the symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, drowsiness, being short of breath and feeling nauseous – they may seem like food poisoning or flu early on.

The 3 Ways Your Workers Can Be at Threat from CO2

  1. Gas Appliances in Onsite Facilities

When you use petroleum gas heaters and cookers in your onsite rest or welfare facilities, if they’re not properly ventilated they can pose a threat.

If you must use gas, follow these 6 steps for safety;

  1. Store all cylinders in well-ventilated safe places OUTSIDE accommodation.  You can even have a storage area just for your gas equipment.
  2. Make sure your combustion ventilation is strong enough for fixed grills
  3. Check and maintain your ventilation – make sure it doesn’t get blocked.
  4. Check your appliances are properly installed – have someone experienced check it who knows what they’re doing.
  5. Double check all cylinders are properly turned off when they’re off.
  6. Use detectors – ceiling or wall mounted CO2 detectors will make everyone safer and more relaxed.  Like we said, you can’t trust your nose or eyes with CO2!

But a simple, better solution?  Use electrical equipment instead!

  1. Refurb Work

Refurbishment work can disrupt existing ventilation or gas flues, which can lead to dangerous build ups of CO during or more commonly after the work.  In fact, the tenants after the work is finished are more at risk, and like our Suffolk gas engineer, you don’t want any harm on your hands.

The key here is to very carefully identify all gas-fired systems before you begin work. And plan how to work around them – treat ventilation as seriously as the pipes themselves!

And if it’s likely you’ll disturb a gas system, always use a competent gas engineer…

  1. Gas Safe Registers for Gas Engineers

According to the HSE at least 25 people die every year because of bad gas installation or maintenance like in our story above.

Any installing, services, repairing a gas boiler, gas fire, gas cooker or hob must be done by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered engineer.  So find a one and team up, you’re likely to need them on your projects.

Your Key Takeaways

  • Carbon Monoxide is potentially fatal, odourless, tasteless and invisible.  Symptoms are headaches, drowsiness, shortness of breath and nausea, and can be mistaken for the flu or food poisoning.
  • Using gas appliances onsite in rest facilities is dangerous.  Use electrical equipment if possible. Take great care if you must use gas.
  • Refurb work can disturb gas appliances, flues or ventilation, causing danger to workers and tenants.
  • Always use a ’Gas Safe’ registered engineer.

Do you have any questions about carbon monoxide risks?

Get in touch!


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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