Think about the gas-powered engines you might use on a daily basis, like a generator, pump, pressure-washer, tractor or truck. All of these essential machines produce carbon monoxide (CO).
They can become deadly if used indoors with little or no ventilation. The risk of CO poisoning exists outdoors, too. That’s because an engine’s exhaust fumes can get trapped and concentrated in an area with minimal air movement. Consider these carbon monoxide safety tips to keep you and your family safe.
Common causes of CO poisoning
- Gas-powered pressure washers used for routine cleanup of barns, stalls and confinement areas. Make sure gas-powered pressure washers are located outside, and that only the pressure water hose goes into the building.
- Holes in the exhaust systems of tractors and other farm equipment can leak carbon monoxide. Make sure exhaust systems are in good order, and that exhaust is directed up and away from tractors and other equipment.
- Vent pipes on high-pressure hot water tanks fueled by propane can be deadly. Make sure your vent pipes aren’t corroded, ill-fitting or disconnected.
The risk increases in winter
According to the CDC, more deaths from carbon monoxide exposure occur in the winter than at any other time. That’s because generators and space heaters are more heavily used in the colder months. And ventilation is often sacrificed for warmth. Even warming up your truck with the garage doors open for a few minutes can produce enough carbon monoxide to make you sick.
If you use a gas-powered engine of any size, you’re at risk for CO exposure. Small gas-powered engines can produce almost as much exhaust as a full-sized vehicle in a matter of minutes. Because carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and non-irritating, it’s impossible to detect without the correct instruments. Before you know what’s happened, you can end up seriously ill.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
If you work around gas-powered engines, you should look for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you’re working in an open field. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- A bright red, flushed face
- Blurry vision or vomiting
- Profound weakness and tiredness
- Headache, achy muscles or a tight chest
- Dizziness and confusion
If CO exposure continues, the affected person may lose consciousness, experience a seizure or suffer respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
What to do if carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred
- Immediately move the person away from the building or area into fresh air.
- Call 911, even if the person seems OK after a few minutes. Medical attention is a must for cases of CO poisoning.
- Turn off the source of exhaust fumes, if it is safe to do so.
How to protect yourself and others on the farm
These tips can help keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Never use a gas-powered engine indoors, even if you think it’s properly ventilated. Chances are it’s not.
- Never start or leave running trucks, tractors and other gas-powered machines in an enclosed area, or near an area where the gas can collect and be concentrated.
- Whenever possible and safe, use tools powered by electricity.
- Install UL-approved carbon monoxide alarms in areas where gas-powered engines are used.
- Have gas-powered machines checked annually to ensure they’re working properly.