How to Avoid Carbon Dioxide Exposure at Work
Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is essential to life on this planet. However, carbon dioxide can become toxic when concentrated, especially in an enclosed area. This can lead to asphyxiation in workers. To effectively reduce and avoid carbon dioxide exposure at work, proper ventilation should be arranged.
How workers are exposed
Carbon dioxide is predominantly used in the following industries:
- Performing arts
- Fog and dry ice machines
- Food & beverage processing
- Created during fermentation
- Added to carbonated drinks
- Resulting from decomposition in manure pits
- Greenhouses and mushroom farms
- Fire prevention
- Fire extinguishers
- Used to subdue sparks and flames when cleaning fuel tanks
Workers might experience headaches, vertigo, confusion, or unconsciousness if they inhale high amounts of carbon dioxide.
Generally, carbon dioxide does not pose any danger in normal levels. However, when the level gets too high, it can push oxygen out of the work area, causing toxicity or asphyxiation to workers. Because of its characteristics, it can be hard to detect whenever concentration levels start to increase.
How to reduce the risks
If it is suspected that the carbon dioxide levels might be hazardous, one should:
- Check the amount of carbon dioxide in the work area.
- Before entering a work area, make sure that there is adequate ventilation.
- Unless it is known that there is proper ventilation in a workplace, equipment that produces carbon dioxide must not be used.
- Workers must be made aware of the symptoms of overexposure to carbon dioxide so they can leave right away if they begin to experience these symptoms.
There are different risk controls available to use depending on the situation. You will find each of them below, arranged in order of efficiency. To properly assess what is best for your situation, you can start with asking the questions after each one.
Elimination or substitution
The most efficient type of control is to fully eliminate the source of hazard by substituting a safer method or component.
- Can another method that creates less carbon dioxide be used?
Reducing the risk of exposure by making physical alterations to the facilities, types of machinery and methods used are all under engineering controls.
- Can improvements be made to the ventilation system?
- Is there equipment used to monitor carbon dioxide levels?
Administrative controls include changing rules and regulations, distribution of awareness materials, and training of workers.
- Is there an exposure control plan that workers are aware of?
- Are warning signs that include information on symptoms of exposure posted in the workplace?
Personal protective equipment
Although this is the least effective type of control, it still helps reduce the risk of exposure when used together with another control.
- Are workers provided with supplied-air respirators?
- Are supplied-air respirators properly tested and maintained?
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