Carbon Monoxide Monitoring: What You Need to Know

Now that cooler temperatures are here, exterior doors are closed and the risk of overexposure to carbon monoxide is greater.

If you have propane or gasoline-powered forklifts or propane heating units, it’s important to understand what carbon monoxide is, the damage it can cause and how to protect yourself and your employees from its dangers. According to the MN Department of Labor and Industry, here’s what you need to know.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous, colorless and odorless gas that is created during the combustion process.

What are the symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide?

Overexposure symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, increased heart rate, blurred vision, confusion, disorientation, heart damage or death by asphyxiation. Consequently, it’s important to be vigilant in monitoring carbon monoxide in the workplace.

How can carbon monoxide be monitored?

Because the gas is odorless, close and effective monitoring is necessary for early detection.

There are three primary methods for monitoring carbon monoxide:

Electronic sensing instruments: These instruments, while they are the most expensive monitoring option, are also the most accurate. Electronic sensing instruments produce a digital readout of carbon monoxide in parts per million.

Colormetric detector tubes with a hand pump: These tubes, which can also be read in parts per million, change color when exposed to carbon monoxide. They involve very little maintenance, are used to sample over 2-12 minutes time and have a 25% error factor.

Passive dosimeter tube: Very similar to the colormetric detector tubes but without the hand pump, these tubes are used to sample over several hours, are read in parts per million, can be attached to your employee’s collar and have a 25% error factor.

Note: Residential carbon monoxide detectors are not recommended for use in the workplace.

Minnesota OSHA rules for carbon monoxide monitoring

  • Internal combustion engine-powered industrial trucks: When these are operated indoors, Minnesota OSHA states that “that carbon monoxide levels do not exceed those given in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, section 1910.1000, Table Z-1-A. The air monitoring shall be done at least quarterly and represent exposures during a day of highest usage in the areas where employee carbon monoxide exposure is most likely.”
  • Tailpipe exhaust: Minnesota OSHA states that “the employer shall ensure that powered industrial truck engine exhaust gases do not contain more than one percent carbon monoxide for propane-fueled trucks or two percent carbon monoxide for gasoline-fueled measured at idle and at three-fourths throttle during final engine tuning in a regular maintenance program.”
  • Minnesota OSHA states that, in the construction industry, “The employer shall monitor environmental exposure of employees to carbon monoxide whenever internal combustion engines discharge engine exhaust gases indoors or unvented space heaters are operated indoors to ensure that carbon monoxide levels do not exceed those given in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, section 1926.55, Appendix A. The air monitoring shall be done during initial operation and at least quarterly thereafter and during a period representing highest usage in areas where carbon monoxide exposure is most likely.”

Questions about carbon monoxide monitoring? We’d be happy to help! Give us a call at 952-474-2628.

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Industrial Compliance Services

St. Paul, MN

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