(Salem) –In recent weeks, employees at three different Portland-area worksites were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide while operating gas-powered equipment. Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, is urging employers to take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide exposure, which can cause nausea, dizziness, headache, or in extreme cases, death.
“It’s alarming to see this number of serious carbon monoxide incidents,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “While the risk always exists, employers should see this as a reminder to beware of the hazard in their workplace.”
Oregon OSHA is investigating the following three cases:
- Several workers became ill July 17 after an employee began using a gas-powered pressure washer to clean a refrigerated room at a fruit processing plant. A total of 23 people went to the hospital, many of whom didn’t recognize the symptoms until it was too late.
- On July 18, construction workers in a warehouse were operating a gas-powered saw and other internal combustion engine equipment at the same time. Despite the employer’s effort to keep air moving with commercial fans, it wasn’t enough to avoid an overexposure.
- In the third incident, also on July 18, a worker using a gas-powered saw in a manhole was overcome by carbon monoxide and lost consciousness.
Prolonged or high exposure to carbon monoxide may worsen symptoms, which can also include vomiting, confusion, collapse, and muscle weakness. Symptoms can vary from person to person.
Heaters, generators, sprayers, pressure washers, drywall equipment, forklifts, and anything else with an internal combustion engine or that burns a petroleum fuel, gas, wood or coal are examples of equipment that can pose a risk, especially in an enclosed space.
More information about carbon monoxide can be found on Oregon OSHA’s website:http://www.orosha.org/subjects/carbon_monoxide.html.
Employers can also request a no-cost, confidential consultation by calling 1-800-922-2689 or by visitinghttp://www.orosha.org/consultation.html.