You can’t smell it, you can’t taste it, and you can’t see it, but carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas prevalent in our daily lives and is often in our homes and in our workplaces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

The predominant source of CO is burning fossil fuels. Burning fuel in cars or trucks and operating heavy equipment, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators, or furnaces all produce CO. When operated in poorly ventilated areas, these become extremely dangerous, but unfortunately good ventilation does not guarantee a CO exposure will be avoided.

Why is CO so dangerous, and how does it harm us? When too much CO is in the air you are breathing, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with CO. This prevents oxygen from reaching your tissues and organs. Depending on the degree and length of exposure, CO poisoning can cause permanent brain damage and damage to your heart, possibly leading to life-threatening cardiac complications, miscarriages, and death.

If you suspect someone has been exposed to CO and is experiencing CO poisoning, promptly taking the following actions can save lives:

  • Move the victim immediately to fresh air if you can safely do so.
  • Call 911 or another local emergency number for medical attention or assistance.
  • Administer 100 percent oxygen using a tight-fitting mask if the victim is breathing.
  • Begin CPR if the victim has stopped breathing.

Check out our Toolbox Talk for safe and effective ways to prevent CO poisoning.

RETTEW’s safety professionals offer a range of consulting and training services, from understanding compliance and how to incorporate safety measures into daily operations, to learning how to handle an emergency or lead a rescue mission. Please contact Kelly Kramer, CECD, HEM, at 800.738.8395 for more information.

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Safety training and consulting are only some of RETTEW’s 600+ services. Our safety team works hand in hand with engineers, scientists, project managers, and other technical experts at places such as manufacturing facilities, drill pads, and commercial construction sites. We are well respected in many industries and known for ensuring workers and equipment remain safe, which keeps your projects on track and your bottom line growing.