Farms use gas powered engines every day. Machines such as a generator, pump, pressure washer, tractor, or truck are all necessities for farm life. However, they all also produce carbon monoxide (CO). These machines can become deadly if used in a space with little to no ventilation and that also have risk even when used outdoors. The engine’s exhaust fumes can get trapped and concentrated in an area with minimal air movement.
Common causes of CO poisoning can include:
- Gas-powered pressure washers used for routine cleanup of barns, stalls and confinement areas. Make sure gas-powered pressure washers are located outside, and that only the pressure water hose goes into the building.
- Holes in the exhaust systems of tractors and other farm equipment can leak carbon monoxide. Make sure exhaust systems are in good order, and that exhaust is directed up and away from tractors and other equipment.
- Vent pipes on high-pressure hot water tanks fueled by propane can be deadly. Make sure your vent pipes aren’t corroded, ill-fitting or disconnected.
The risk increases in winter. According to the CDC, more deaths from carbon monoxide exposure occur in the winter than at any other time. That’s because generators and space heaters are more heavily used in the colder months. And ventilation is often sacrificed for warmth. Even warming up your truck with the garage doors open for a few minutes can produce enough carbon monoxide to make you sick.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and non-irritating, it’s impossible to detect without the correct instruments. Before you know what’s happened, you can end up seriously ill. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- A bright red, flushed face
- Blurry vision or vomiting
- Profound weakness and tiredness
- Headache, achy muscles or a tight chest
- Dizziness and confusion
- If CO exposure continues, the affected person may lose consciousness, experience a seizure or suffer respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
So, what should you do if you think carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred? The first step is to immediately move yourself and others away from the building or area into fresh air. Turn off any source of exhaust or fumes if it is safe to do so. Call 911, even if people seem okay after a few minutes. Medical attention is a must for cases of CO poisoning.
These tips can help keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Never use a gas-powered engine indoors, even if you think it’s properly ventilated. Chances are it’s not.
- Never start or leave running trucks, tractors and other gas-powered machines in an enclosed area, or near an area where the gas can collect and be concentrated.
- Whenever possible and safe, use tools powered by electricity.
- Install UL-approved carbon monoxide alarms in areas where gas-powered engines are used.
- Have gas-powered machines checked annually to ensure they’re working properly.