Carbon Monoxide in Confined Spaces

Many hazards exist in confined spaces. To truly understand and control these hazards we must have an idea of our surroundings and environment and the work we are completing.

 

For example- you may be completing confined space work in a factory with powered mobile plant operating around the entrance to the confined space. Prior to entry you test the atmosphere and there are no harmful airborne contaminants- LEL is well and truly below 5%, Hydrogen Sulphide is at 0 ppm, Oxygen is at 20.8% and Carbon Monoxide is at 0 ppm. Suddenly halfway through the job you notice that there are reading on your gas detector for Carbon Monoxide. Nothing has changed inside the confined space- so something has happened outside the confined space- it could be a petrol driven generator, it could be plant and equipment operating. Either way carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas- especially inside a confined space.

This news post aims to give you an understanding of Carbon Monoxide.

 

So what exactly is Carbon Monoxide?

 

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. CO is made up of Carbon and Oxygen and is produced by incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels.

 

What will cause CO in a Confined Space?

 

A number of sources can create CO in a confined space. Tools and equipment such as petrol generators, compressors, plant and equipment can cause CO. These tools used outside are generally okay because the CO will dissipate, however in a confined space they will build up quickly and pose a hazard to entrants and workers. Even if these tools and equipment are used outside a confined space the CO may potentially enter the space through air movement such as mechanical ventilation.

 

What are the effects of CO?

 

35 ppm: A mild headache with dizziness will occur with 6-8 hours of exposure.

 

100 ppm: A mild headache and dizziness will occur after 2-3 hours.

 

200 ppm: A headache and loss of judgement will occur after only 2-3 hours of exposure.

 

400 ppm:  A fromtal type headache will occur after only 1-2 hours.

 

800 ppm: At this concentration dizziness, headaches and convulsions will occur at just 45 minutes of exposure.

 

1600 ppm: This level will dizziness, headaches, nausea and convulsions within 20 minutes of exposure and death in less than 2 hours.

 

6400 ppm: Headaches and Dizziness will occur only after 1-2 minutes of exposure with death in less than 20 minutes.

 

12800 ppm: At this high concentration unconsciousness will occur after only 2-3 breaths and death will occur in less than 3 minutes.

 

 

What can be done about Carbon Monoxide?

 

Carbon Monoxide risks can be reduced through the hierarchy of control. These could include control measures such as:

  • Elimination of any hot works or processes around or in the confined space that produce carbon monoxide
  • Extraction of gasses inside the confined space or ventilation into the confined space
  • suitable training regarding the risks of working in confined spaces
  • a written confined space permit
  • continuous gas monitoring within the confined space
  • the use of SCBA

 

 

 

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