How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A review of statistics available from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that between the years of 1999 and 2010 an average of 430 people lost their lives due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The total deaths for that period of 12 years was over 5,000.

These were unintentional CO deaths that were not related to CO poisoning from fires. These were accidental poisonings from the exposure to carbon monoxide vapors or gases.

Carbon Monoxide is colorless, and it is odorless- it is undetectable to the human senses and you may not realize that you are being exposed to these dangerous gases until it is too late.

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are much like the flue:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

The above are the low level symptoms, the high level poisoning lead to more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

The severity of symptoms is related to the level of CO exposure as well as the duration someone is exposed to it. It is common for occupants to mistake mild CO poisoning for the flu, which can sometimes result in death. For high levels of exposure victims become confused rapidly, and the loss of muscular coordination will lead to death quickly.

How can this be prevented?

  • All appliances should be installed and operated as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions, as well as building codes. The majority of appliances will require installation by a qualified professional.
  • The heating system should be inspected by a professional and annually serviced to ensure it is operating properly. In addition, the professional should check chimney flues for blockages, or corrosion, possible disconnections or loosening connections.
  • Do not attempt to service your own fuel-burning appliances unless you have the proper knowledge and skills, plus the correct tools.
  • Do not operate a portable generator in an enclosed space- this includes the house, garage, shed, or any other building with at least 3 walls and a roof. Opening the doors and/or windows does not make it safer to do so.
  • Do not use fuel burning camping equipment in your vehicle, a tent, garage, shed, or home. It is not designed for use within an enclosed space. If you purchase one that has been designed for use in an enclosed space, ensure you read through the instructions for safe use.
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a tent, vehicle, shed, home or garage.
  • Do not leave a vehicle running in a garage attached to your home, even if the garage door has been left open.
  • Do not use gas appliances to heat your home- this includes ovens, ranges and clothes dryers.
  • Do not use unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room where people are sleeping
  • Never cover the bottom of propane or natural gas ovens with foil. This will block the combustion air flow and will produce CO.
  • When renovating your home, you must ensure that tarps do not cover appliance vents or chimneys. Also ensure that debris is not blocking these areas.
  • Install Carbon Monoxide alarms throughout your home. This is not a substitute for the rest of the list above, however it can provide added protection and alert you to the presence of CO in your home. CO alarms should be in every hallway where sleeping areas are- they should not be covered by curtains, or furniture. They should not be placed near heating vents or in kitchens above fuel burning appliances.


When considering what level of carbon monoxide is dangerous to your health it can depend on a number of factors. The length of exposure, the concentration of CO, and the health condition of the individual who has been exposed.


The concentration of carbon monoxide is measured in ppm (parts per million). The majority of people can withstand prolonged exposure of up to 70ppm without experiencing any systems. A heart patient, however, may begin to experience chest pain. Carbon monoxide levels above 70ppm will see the introduction of noticeable symptoms, like nausea, fatigue and headache. It is sustained exposure of CO concentration levels over 150pmm that lead to disorientation, and possibly death.


If you believe you’re experiencing CO poisoning symptoms head outside for fresh air immediately. Call the fire department to report your symptoms from your cell phone, or a neighbor’s home. Do not re-enter your home under any circumstances. Contact your doctor to explain your circumstances and have CO poisoning confirmed. If your doctor confirms this, you must employ a qualified technician to check all of your appliances. Do not operate them until this has been completed.


The purpose of the carbon monoxide alarm is to detect levels of CO before they reach life threatening levels. The manufacturer instructions should be followed for installation and use of the CO alarm. To ensure it is operating use the test button. This tests whether the circuitry is operating, but not the sensors accuracy. CO alarms are not lifetime guaranteed, so it’s important to check the instructions to find out when it should be replaced.


If your CO alarm sounds do not ignore it, and do not search for the source. Get out of the home immediately into fresh air. Call the emergency services and ensure that everyone is accounted for. Do not go back into your home until the emergency services have cleared you to do so. Re-entering your home could result in death. If a malfunctioning appliance has been determined as the CO source, make sure it is off and do not operate it until it has been serviced for a qualified technician.


If you have been cleared by emergency services to reenter your home and the alarm reactivates within 24 hours repeat the steps above. However, follow up by calling a qualified technician to investigate and repair the source. If possible stay elsewhere for the evening.


CO Alarms should comply with UL 2034 and will state this on the packaging.


Here’s a great video that talks about carbon monoxide:

Home Office and Telecommuting Safety Tips

Many people work from home nowadays, whether in a freelance capacity or as part of their role within a business. Unlike the physical workplace, it is the responsibility of the teleworker to maintain a safe working environment from home.

The most basic safety tips: ensure the floor is clear of tripping hazards, that involves paperwork, books and wires. Ensure all smoke and CO detectors are installed and in working condition. Ensure that electrical items and power strips have been safety tested and not working over capacity. Provide adequate lighting in order to reduce eye strain, and use ergonomic equipment in your work station.

Is that all you can do, though? No. There’s plenty more and when you start making a list of safety tips you start to realize the size of the picture, and just how many everyday items can create chaos in the workplace.


Health & Safety

Ergonomics is a science dealing with the design and arrangement of things so that people are able to use them safely and easily. So file cabinets should be arranged so that open drawers do not block paths or create trip hazards. Additionally, the drawers should not be top heavy.

Any carpeting that has frayed edges, or is loose should be inspected and repaired to avoid trips and falls. Throw rugs should not be used in a workspace as they can cause trips.

Despite not being in the workplace, proper lifting techniques should always be used when lifting furniture of equipment. Additionally, if you do have an accident or an injury you should report it to your supervisor.

The temperature of the workspace should be adequate- where possible in summer there should be air conditioning, or a fan- and in winter, heat. In addition, the area must be properly ventilated.


Fire Safety

In addition to smoke detectors, it would be wise to develop a fire evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. Every business has these in place, and while it may seem excessive for working from home it’s wise. This is especially important if other people stop by your office space, make sure working visitors are aware of the plan and what to do in the event of a fire.

Additionally, you should have a working fire extinguisher located conveniently that is fully charged and that you know how to use.

The workspace should be kept clear of clutter, trash and flammable liquids. Any portable heaters or radiators should be located in an area separate from flammable items. The walkway should be kept clear and the doorways must be unobstructed.

Clutter should be avoided, to prevent trips as well as to avoid causing fire hazards.


Electrical Safety

Electrical equipment should be connected to grounded outlets, and computers are heavy objects- so they should only ever be placed on sturdy, well maintained furniture that is on a level surface. The computer, and phones and other electrical equipment, should also be located so that the cords do not create trip hazards. When possible the cords should be secured along the wall, or under a desk. Additionally, all cords should be kept away from heat sources.

At the end of the day all of the electrical equipment should be powered down where possible.

Are there a sufficient number of electrical outlets? Ensure you are not plugging power strips into power strips.

Have you connected your computer equipment to a surge protector? Is your electrical system adequate for office equipment? Are all of your plugs, cords, outlets and panels in good condition? Are there any exposed or damaged wires? Check these on a weekly basis to ensure you are aware of the condition of your electrical equipment.

Your electrical equipment should be placed as close as possible to the outlet to ensure the reduction of trip hazards.

Extension cords should only be used temporarily, not as a long term solution. If you are using extension cords regularly you should consider having an electrician install another outlet or two.

Equipment should be turned off when not in use, this will reduce heat, extend the life of your equipment, as well as reduce fire hazards.


Computer Workstation

Building on the back of the need for adequate lighting, consider the location of your computer to ensure there is no glare from windows. Ensure the monitor is at a safe height which is both comfortable, while not causing back or neck strain. The keyboard should be located at a height that will not cause wrist strain. When choosing an office chair ensure that you opt for a chair that provides supportive backrests and is adjustable to provide you with optimum comfort.

Chair wheels should be secure, and chair legs must be sturdy. Check these on a weekly basis to prevent accidents.

Do your feet meet the floor in order to offer an adequate footrest, if not does your chair have a footrest?

Does your desk have sufficient leg room for you to stretch and remain comfortable throughout the work day?

Is the top of your computer screen at eye level? Is there space to rest your arms while not actively typing.



Are you using a reputable and reliable antivirus on your computer? Is it up to date and are you running scans regularly?

Files should be stored in a locked filing cabinet when not in use.

Is your equipment in a secure place in order to protect it from misuse or damage?

Have you created an inventory list of your office equipment, including the serial numbers?

The workspace should be devoted to your work needs and located away from distractions and excess noise. It should be an appropriate size to accommodate the equipment and workstation as well as any related material.


When you consider the health and safety expectations that are applied in the workplace the picture becomes clear; your home workspace is an extension of the physical workplace and safety is still paramount.

Clean as You Go

One of the most common cause of accidents in the workplace, and the home, are slips, trips and falls. That is why one of the most vital parts of any job is the clean-up that follows.

A quick walkthrough of any workplace offers an excellent indication to the businesses attitude towards safety. Housekeeping tends to be an accurate indication of a company’s attitude towards worker safety, quality and production. An area that is poorly maintained leads to threats and hazards everywhere. Not only does good housekeeping improve safety, but it sets the standard for everyone else. A clean working space is indicative of the health and safety approach of any business.

Please Keep Your Work Area CleanIf it’s normal to see clutter, debris and spillages then this is more likely indicative of deeper health and safety hazards.

The easiest way to ensure you maintain safety standards is by cleaning as you go- this leaves you with a small clean-up at the completion of your task and keeps you safe as you work. Periodic clean ups do nothing to prevent accidents.

Whether you work in a retailer, a construction site, or you complete odd jobs at home- the clean-up is inevitable. You might be dealing with dangerous materials, debris or toxic products, regardless of what you will be handling, leaving anything behind can cause injury to others.

This could cause an injury to yourself, passers-by, colleagues or customers. It is absolutely vital that any debris is removed immediately upon completion of work. The work area itself should be cordoned off while working to prevent any injuries as you work.

Keeping your job site clean also leads to increased productivity, tools get misplaced as clean ups get put off. It also strengthens the reputation of the company. If you are on a building site and a client, or a home/business owner stops by they don’t want to see complete and utter chaos. It leaves the wrong impression, which is why cleaning as you go is just as vital as the final clean up.

Health & Safety is a serious part of any business, and the failure to comply with rules and regulations could not only cost you your job, it could cost the company money in lawsuits, a loss of reputation, thus a loss of business, and in some cases- death.

In many cases you will be struggling to reach a deadline, perhaps someone has called off sick and you’re running out of time. This is no excuse to neglecting health and safety by leaving your workspace is an untidy manner. As stated above, the consequences could be tragic.

Everyone has worked with someone who fails to clean up after themselves, whether it has been in an office environment with coffee cups stacking up, or piles of paperwork all over the desk. Consider what your first impressions were of that person. You probably didn’t think about their success, or the contract they had won- you most likely wondered how they got anything accomplished in all of that mess. Your ability to leave your workspace tidy is as important to you personally, as it is to you professionally- for your image, the company’s image and to your health.

A workspace that has been left without proper clean up tells prospective clients that a company is disorganized, whether it is because the business is poorly run, or just lacks professionalism. While your clients may not be well versed in your industry, everyone knows how difficult it can be to work in a cluttered environment.

Clean ShopApart from the slips, trips and falls that could occur through employees failing to clean up after their job- other illnesses can also be causing by poor clean up.

Consider a restaurant with dirty air ducts and refrigerators. The former could cause lung problems and the latter could spread illness and bacteria, and worse still: food poisoning.

When you eat at your desk and fail to clean up at yourself you risk attracting cockroaches, mice and ants.

There are also risks of falling objects, falling into misplaced materials, as well as cutting or puncturing skin on nails, wire, or steel strapping that has been left sticking out.

Carpets should be vacuumed, floors should be swept, trash should be bagged and removed from the premises, surfaces should be wiped down, and dishes should be taken home and washed properly. All of these play into keeping your workplace professional, tidy and safe- though these are not frequently discussed when dealing with workplace cleanliness.

At the completion of your work day ensure that all tools are secured in their proper place, and the area is swept down and returned to its original state. This will prevent any slips, trips and falls. Additionally, any combustible materials should be stored correctly in order to avoid fire hazards.

There are a number of ways to minimize clutter in your work area- start by planning the job and only bringing the materials required.

Create a routine, complete your clean ups in the same order at the same time every day to ensure it is a habit you will never forget.

You are responsible for your own area of work and must remember that a clean working environment is a productive working area that also enhances the safety of everyone. Every employee plays their part in health and safety, it is everybody’s responsibility and the only way to ensure a workplace is safe is if everyone is playing their part. Your work is not complete until the clean-up has been done, nothing should be left for the next shift, or for the next morning.

Effective housekeeping plays a part in: fewer accidents, a decrease in fire hazards, reduced exposure to hazardous substances, increased control of materials and tools, equipment operating more efficiently due to correct cleaning and maintenance, improved hygiene thus improved health, effective us of storage space, a reduction in property damage, less janitorial work, improved productivity and all of these things provide an improvement in employee morale.

Check out this video for some additional good tips on this topic.