Working in the construction industry can have many hazards. One of the more obscure hazards is Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure. Construction sites often have lots of heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes. When in use, these machines will emit CO. In order to reduce the amount of CO released, it is important to make sure the equipment is well-maintained.
CONSTRUCTION AND CARBON MONOXIDE
At what level does Carbon Monoxide become dangerous?
CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. However, it is often accompanied by other gases that contain an odor. CO is produced from the burning of fuels and is emitted when operating fuel-powered equipment. This can happen when generators or heavy machinery are in use.
Carbon Monoxide levels are measured using a system called Parts Per Million (PMM). For example, 100 PPM CO means that for every 999,900 molecules of air, there are 100 molecules of Carbon Monoxide. The effects of CO will vary depending on the concentration
- 0 PPM - Normal fresh air
- 9 PPM - Maximum recommended indoor Carbon Monoxide level
- 10-24 PPM - Possible health effects with prolonged exposure
- 25-35 PPM - Maximum Time Weighted Average Exposure for 8-hour workday depending on standard. (Preset Low Alarm Warning will activate)
- 50 PPM - Maximum permissible exposure in workplace (OSHA)
- 100 PPM - Slight headache after 1-2 hours
- 200 PPM - Dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headache after 2-3 hours of exposure. (Preset High Alarm Warning will activate) • 400 PPM- Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure. Life threatening in 3 hours.
- 800 PPM - Headache, nausea and dizziness after 45 minutes, collapse and unconscious after 1 hour of exposure. Death within 2-3 hours.
- 1000 PPM - Loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
- 1600 PPM - Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes of exposure. Death within 1-2 hours.
While it is possible to be exposed to CO without knowing, exposure is much less likely if the proper precautions are taken.
- Avoid using gas-powered equipment when working in confined spaces
- Ensure there is proper ventilation throughout the worksite
- When using a generator outdoors, ensure there are no openings for CO to enter a confined space indoors
- Report to a supervisor if feeling dizzy or light-headed