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The dangers of carbon monoxide in the workplace

Workers in Pennsylvania might be interested OSHA's new reminder to employers about keeping workers safe from carbon monoxide exposure. The February 12 reminder was issued after recent events indicated a need to emphasize the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure when workers are in enclosed spaces near generators or other types of equipment that can expose them to the deadly gas.

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that cannot be seen and has no odor. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. The first symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include dizziness, headache, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and tightness across the chest. Someone who is overexposed may lapse into a coma. Severe neurological damage can occur in people who survive carbon monoxide poisoning.

Worker deaths from carbon monoxide exposure happen every year. Fuel-burning equipment and tools are the main culprits. Workspaces where these items are used should be well-ventilated. The danger of carbon monoxide overexposure is generally greatest in the winter when indoor spaces are often sealed against the cold weather and space heaters create another source of carbon monoxide exposure.

OSHA reminds employers to install ventilation systems, avoid the use of fuel-burning equipment in enclosed areas and educate workers about the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The use of carbon monoxide detectors is also recommended.

While OSHA works to keep workplaces safe, workers are protected financially by workers' compensation insurance. Workers' compensation covers injuries or illnesses that occur or are made worse because of work duties. Filing a workers' compensation claim is different than filing a personal injury lawsuit because workers' compensation does not require proof that someone else was responsible for the workers' injury. Although the scope of workers' compensation coverage is very broad, employers are allowed to fight a claim, and they often do.

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