Portable Generators and Ways to Protect Workers and Building Occupants from Carbon Monoxide Hazards
Clark Seif Clark provides indoor air quality testing services, worksite assessments and training services to identify and mitigate exposure risks to carbon monoxide and other combustion gases.
The use of portable back-up generators powered by fossil fuels has become increasingly common to provide electricity when utility power fails or when sites have no power infrastructure. These generators can help to keep critical appliances on, or can power a worksite, but they can also expose people to carbon monoxide (CO) if not properly used.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is extremely poisonous, potentially causing death in minutes if exposed to high enough concentrations. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘quiet killer’ as it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that about 85 consumers die in the United States each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gasoline-powered portable generators. To help prevent carbon monoxide poisonings, CPSC provides the following advice for using a generator safely due to loss of power.
· Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or on a porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
· Operate portable generators outside only, at least 20 feet away from the house, and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings that someone could enter, while keeping windows and other openings closed in the exhaust path of the generator.
· Check that portable generators have had proper maintenance, and read and follow the labels, instructions and warnings on the generator and in the owner’s manual.
· Look for portable generators that shut off automatically when high levels of CO are present. Some models with CO shut-off also have reduced emissions.
“Many worksites rely on portable generators, making exposure to combustion byproducts, including carbon monoxide, a serious potential occupational hazard,” said Derrick A. Denis, Vice President of Indoor Environmental Quality for Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “Careful planning, jobsite hazard analysis, ventilation, equipment maintenance, air monitoring and employee education are all important tools for protecting life and health. Carbon monoxide direct-reading instruments and employee exposure monitoring can help verify jobsite compliance with OSHA health and safety regulations. But, consumers or small businesses such as homeowners, RV owners and food truck operators are vulnerable because they often lack the awareness of this invisible hazard.”
Fortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable and the indoor air quality and industrial hygiene professionals at CSC offer testing, monitoring, consulting and training services to identify and mitigate potential exposure risks from portable generators and other combustion devices. CSC also recently sponsored an educational video about portable generators and carbon monoxide hazards that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/Ju5x-S7828o
To learn more about this or other indoor air quality, building science, occupational, environmental, health and safety services, please visit www.csceng.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 807-1118.
About Clark Seif Clark
CSC was established in 1989 to help clients in both public and private sectors address indoor air quality, occupational, environmental, and health and safety (EH&S) issues. CSC is a leading provider of these services with multiple offices along the western seaboard and southwest. The company believes in science-based protocols and has a strong background in engineering, making them the preferred environmental consultants to industrial clients, healthcare facilities, architects, schools, builders, contractors, developers and real estate professionals.
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