But I figured it was worth bringing up again:


Protecting Employees from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

By Gerald A. Edgar

After 25 years of preaching and teaching safety, I have come to realize that safety is a culture, not just a workday activity. It is a part of our lives. Accordingly, successful safety programs need to address not just workplace but home injuries. As the weather turns cold, there is one important home safety topic that I take up with our employees: Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Here is what I tell them.

High Cost of Fuel Increases CO Risks

Mid-fall is the start of the CO season. This is when we start firing up furnaces, wood burners, space heaters and the like. And when we button up our homes, shops and garages to keep out drafts, we also seal in CO.

This year, the CO threat is especially acute. News reports are warning that home heating costs - such as natural gas in the Midwest - may increase by as much as 62% this winter. Consequently, many people are expected to use alternative heating sources to cut down on their bills. That makes it especially imperative to get the word out about the dangers of CO poisoning.

Warning Symptoms

CO is known as "the silent killer." That's because it kills without warning. CO gas is odorless and colorless. CO displaces the oxygen from your blood stream (thus the red face) and exposure to high levels can be fatal.

Symptoms of CO poisoning can easily be mistaken or explained away as lack of sleep or mild flu. So the first thing you need to do is warn your employees and make them aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning, including:

Unusually red cheeks
If anyone in your household is experiencing these symptoms, move them to a well-ventilated area and get medical attention.

Inspect for Sources of CO

To reduce the risk of CO poisoning in your home or shop, you should conduct a pre-winter inspection of common CO sources, such as:

Space heaters (other than electric ones)
Gas-fired appliances, including stoves or grills
Hot water heaters
As part of your inspection:

Have a qualified technician inspect and clean your heating system (even a new furnace may have a cracked heat exchanger);
Ensure that chimneys and flues are clear of animal or bird nests;
Ensure that summer junk isn't blocking vents, flues or the immediate area around space heaters.
Generally, any internal combustion engine or anything burning a fossil fuel should be inspected.

Other Pointers

In addition to inspecting CO sources, there are other ways you can reduce the risk of CO poisoning in your home:

Even in emergencies, do not use your kitchen stove as a heater;
Don't grill with propane or charcoal indoors;
Avoid running any internal combustion engine inside a garage or shed. If you do a lot of vehicle work, try this trick used by most commercial garages: place a small covered hole in your garage door and run a hose from the exhaust pipes through the hole.


Invest in your family's safety by buying a carbon monoxide detector for the home, garage and the workshop - one that is warranted and has UL approval. Or buy a smoke detector that has a CO detector built-in. Some insurance companies will you give a credit for having a CO detector. At a cost of somewhere between $20 and $70 (US), it's money well spent. The life saved may literally be your own!


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Statistics
15,200 Estimated annual number of persons treated with confirmed or possible non-fire-related CO exposure

480 Number of persons who die from non-fire-related CO poisoning each year on average

69 Average number of CO poisoning fatalities in January (compared to 21 in June)

2,511 Average number of nonfatal CO poisonings in January (compared to 510 in June)

64% Percentage of nonfatal CO exposures that occur in the home

2.7 The average number of men that die of CO poisoning for each female CO fatality

18.5% CO exposure incidents associated with faulty furnaces

9% CO exposure incidents associated with motor vehicles

9.3% Percentage of patients that had a CO detector at home

100% Percentage who reported that they were alerted by the CO detector

Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association (2005; 293:1183-1186)

Author Biography - Gerald A. Edgar

Gerald Edgar, originally from Dubuque, Iowa, is the EH&S Manager for Skyjack Mfg. in Emmetsburg, Iowa. A USAF veteran of the Vietnam War, he graduated from the University of Iowa and began his safety career with the Chicago North Western Railroad. A past national president of the Railroad Carbuilders' Safety Group, he's a graduate of FEMA's Disaster Preparedness school and OSHA's Rolling Meadows, IL Standards Compliance Instructor school. His commitment to safety began as a boy when he saw a young adult with two "hooks" for hands and learned they were the result of a pre-OSHA unguarded shear. To further his personal safety he's married to an R.N.! Gerald can be contacted at: gerald.edgar@skyjackinc.com.