CHRIS STITES, SAFETY ENGINEERING & CLAIMS MANAGEMENT
The winter season is here, and our schools, places of business, and homes are susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a colorless, odorless gas. Carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. Boilers are fuel-fired thus presenting the opportunity for the accumulation of CO.
Every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning. Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning. When we breathe air containing carbon monoxide, it is absorbed through the bloodstream. CO displaces oxygen, and it inhibits the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to vital organs including the brain.
CO is a poisonous gas that can kill you. You cannot see it, taste it, or smell it. CO is called the “silent killer” because it creeps up on you and takes your life without warning. Symptoms of CO poisoning may include headache, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, confusion, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Severe carbon monoxide poisoning may cause loss of consciousness, long-term adverse neurological symptoms, and possibly even death.
Participation in the TNRMT property/casualty program provides no-cost inspection of your boilers biennially, pursuant to TN statute. We have noticed a trend in these findings regarding the lack of CO detector/ alarms in required locations.
Effective June 2020 the state of TN required CO detectors in boiler rooms that contain fuel-fired boilers greater than or equal to 100,000 BTU/HR. In the current edition of the National Board Inspection Code, there has been an addition to Part 1, Section 1.6.9 (Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector/Alarm) that requires the installation of CO detectors – “The owner or user shall install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector/alarm in equipment rooms where fuel-fired boilers and/or fuel-fired pressure vessels are located in accordance with the authority having Jurisdiction.”
Carbon monoxide drills should be practiced just like fire drills.
Quick link for Carbon Monoxide rule and interpretation regarding alarms/ detectors: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/employers/CODetectorInterpretationRequest.pdf
Always consider CO a potential cause and danger when near fuel-fired (diesel, gas, propane, natural gas) equipment.
When in or near confined/enclosed areas
If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, be sure to move to a safe location to ensure safety.
Remember that CO alarms save lives… but only if they work. CO alarms should be tested at least once a month. CO alarm batteries should be replaced by following the manufacturer’s instructions, at a minimum once a year.
Do not ignore a CO alarm. If your CO alarm sounds, immediately alert others to the danger and make sure everyone gets to fresh air quickly.
Any area operating fuel-fired appliances or vehicles must have carbon monoxide placarding visible. Any entity with fuel-fired appliances and accordingly CO potential is strongly encouraged to install a detector/alarm.
Stay calm! Evacuate the location to a safe meeting place outside and have someone call the fire department. Failure to evacuate immediately may result in prolonged exposure and worsening effects from possible CO gas. The best initial treatment for exposure is fresh air.
Safety Engineering & Claims Management