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Can You Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Work?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can pose a serious threat to individuals in both their homes and workplaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk is even higher during the fall and winter months due to the use of gas furnaces and heaters. The colorless, odorless gas can quickly build up in enclosed spaces and result in symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness to unconsciousness and even death.

Regardless of the season, it's crucial to be aware of the potential danger of carbon monoxide and take necessary precautions, such as installing carbon monoxide detectors and ensuring proper ventilation.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that is produced when fuel is burned incompletely. When people are exposed to this gas, the carbon monoxide molecules will displace oxygen in their bodies and lead to poisoning.

This can occur in various situations, such as using gas-powered engines, generators, furnaces, and other fuel-burning appliances. Carbon monoxide can accumulate in indoor spaces without proper ventilation, making it easy for workers to be exposed to dangerous levels without even realizing it.

How Is Carbon Monoxide Harmful?

Carbon monoxide becomes harmful when it is breathed in and enters the bloodstream. It then combines with the hemoglobin in red blood cells, blocking the oxygen from being carried throughout the body. Carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin 210 times faster than oxygen does. Therefore, even if there is enough oxygen in the space, carbon monoxide will get into the bloodstream first.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Loss of hearing
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Disorientation

Prolonged exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can result in coma, brain damage, and even death.

Occupations Exposed to Carbon Monoxide

While carbon monoxide exposure can occur in any space with fuel-burning appliances, certain occupations are at a higher risk. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), examples of these high-risk occupations include:

  • Carbon-black maker
  • Welders
  • Firefighters
  • Forklift operators
  • Customs inspector
  • Taxi drivers
  • Police officers
  • Garage mechanics

It's essential for both employees and employers to take necessary precautions and be aware of carbon monoxide risks associated with their line of work.

Who Is Liable for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Under federal law, employers are required to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This means identifying and mitigating potential health or safety hazards, including carbon monoxide. If an employer fails to take appropriate precautions and an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result, they may be held liable for negligence.

What to Do If You Have Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning at your workplace, you should:

  1. Leave the area immediately: Evacuate the contaminated area and move outside or to a well-ventilated location to breathe fresh air.
  2. Call for help: Call 911 for medical help if you or someone is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
  3. Seek medical attention: Even if symptoms are mild, it’s crucial to get checked by a medical professional to ensure proper treatment and monitor for potential complications.

Awareness and prevention are the keys to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning at work. By being aware of the symptoms, you can keep yourself safer at work.

Contact Us for Legal Help

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a scary and dangerous thing to experience, especially if it occurs at work. While there are measures in place to prevent it, unfortunately, it's not completely avoidable. If you or someone you know has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning while on the job, it's important to seek legal assistance.

Our workers' compensation attorneys at May, Rammell & Wells are dedicated to investigating your case and aggressively pursuing the compensation that you deserve.

Don't hesitate to reach out to us for help. Call (208) 623-8021 or fill out our form online.


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