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Toxic chemical exposure: OSHA issues carbon monoxide alert

In the wake of three separate incidents this summer involving overexposure of employees to carbon monoxide in the Portland area alone, Oregon OSHA has issued an advisory to employers. The concern was voiced for employees operating gas powered equipment in the performance of their work duties, particularly in confined spaces. Toxic chemical exposure is a threat to the safety of workers, and those exposed to it can quickly become nauseous, suffer from headaches and even suffer death under severe circumstances.

While incidents involving a pressure washer and gas powered saws were highlighted, Oregon OSHA noted that any combustion type engine powered by a fuel that is petroleum based could be a risk. This includes heaters, saws, power washers, forklifts and generators. Fuels such as wood, coal and gas can place a worker in danger.

One of the incidents in the Portland area occurred in a fruit processing plant and resulted in 23 people seeking hospital care. The toxic chemical exposure came from use of a pressure washer, which was powered by gas. The seriousness of the injuries was not detailed, though there were no reports that anyone had died. Other incidents in the region included a man injured while working in a manhole and others hurt at a warehouse construction site. In both instances, gas powered equipment was in use .

Toxic chemical exposure to carbon monoxide is life threatening, and a significant risk to workers. The intent behind the OSHA advisory is to draw attention to the issue and alert employers to potential problems before they occur. Those workers who are injured on the job in such a manner have a right to pursue workers' compensation claims for their injuries. This important benefit is designed to help employees pay for medical and other expenses occasioned by their injuries as well as to cover lost income from work during their period of recovery. Often, a worker seeking benefits is confused by the claims process, and the right advice may help ensure that all available benefits are paid in a timely manner.

Source: safety.blr.com, "State urges caution in wake of carbon monoxide incidents," Aug. 22, 2012

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