Beware the silent killer in the workplace

Paul Boughton

The dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) in the home are well publicised, the risks associated with the ‘silent killer’ in the workplace are often overlooked, according to a warning from workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.

CO is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and poisonous gas that occurs when faulty boilers, generators and other combustible appliances fail to properly burn carbon-based fuels.

Inhaling CO prevents the blood from carrying oxygen around the body and early symptoms of CO poisoning can be confused with food poisoning, viral infections and flu. Headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, chest pains and tiredness are all common side effects and anyone exposed for a long period of time can fall unconscious and even die.

Slingsby’s Marketing Director, Lee Wright, explains: “CO is very difficult to detect because often people don’t realise they’re breathing it in, until it’s too late. While many people are aware of the dangers associated with CO at home, where carbon monoxide detectors are commonplace, many don’t give it a second thought at work even though the alarms are cost-effective and easy to install.

“The main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace include poorly maintained and defective appliances combined with inadequate ventilation.  Warning signs that indicate combustion problems in boilers and other appliances can include flames burning orange rather than blue, soot or brown staining and pilot lights regularly going out. In order to minimise the dangers, all boilers and fuel burning appliances should be serviced at least once a year and any vents and exhaust outlets should be checked regularly for obstructions to ensure gases can escape.”