Carbon monoxide is a colourless and tasteless, yet poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide but if inhaled, it can prove fatal because it prevents oxygen from being carried around the body.
According to the NHS, every year there are approximately 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales. The symptoms are not always obvious, and range initially from headaches to stomach pain. Over a prolonged period of time, exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to serious health complications, even death.
The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace is present across different industries. The substance can be produced in dangerous amounts from petrol-powered vehicles, equipment and machines, as well as gas appliances.
Which industries are most at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Industries that use heavy petrol powered machinery, vehicles or equipment are naturally more at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. Workers in these industries run the risk of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide during the course of their employment unless their employers have systems in place to ensure this doesn’t happen.
In addition, those who use gas appliances in the workplace are also at risk and could be exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
How employers can minimise the risk of carbon monoxide in the workplace
Under COSHH Regulations, employers are responsible for implementing control measures to protect workers and ensure the workplace remains a safe place. As part of an obligatory COSHH assessment, employers must:
- Identify all hazardous substances in the workplace
- Decide who may be at risk and consider how likely it is that their health will be affected
- Evaluate the risk of hazardous substances by limiting the amount of exposure or using a safer substitute
- Plan and organise the workplace so that hazardous substances are stored away and waste is disposed of properly
- Review and frequently monitor the level of exposure to substances at work to protect employees.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers can minimise carbon monoxide poisoning risks through regularly checking and servicing any equipment including carbon monoxide detectors, installing ventilation and educating workers on how to identify the signs of carbon monoxide.
What to do if you’ve been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace
If you’ve been diagnosed with a work-related illness due to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. Contact our specialist team today for free legal advice on 0800 0 224 224.
To learn more about how we support workers and stand up for their rights or to make a claim for an accident at work, click below.