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Portable generators expose workers to deadly carbon monoxide

With the winter months forcing more workers in Georgia inside or into partially enclosed spaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reminded employers about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Portable generators, space heaters and any equipment that relies on fuel combustion, like vehicles, pumps or welders, produce carbon monoxide. Insufficient ventilation allows the potentially deadly gas to build up and slowly poison occupants. Every year, some workers die from exposure to the odorless gas, and winter increases the possibility of mishandling equipment in poorly ventilated areas.

Employers should train workers to recognize hazards and symptoms of exposure. When people are exposed to the gas, their symptoms will start as dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, nausea or a tight feeling in the chest. As exposure continues, people could suffer brain damage, fall into a coma and eventually die.

Due to the dangers, employees should not use equipment that burns fuel inside buildings or even partially enclosed spaces. When equipment must be used, the workplace needs appropriate ventilation systems and carbon monoxide detectors to alert workers if gas levels become dangerous.

Responsibility for workplace safety begins with employers who need to educate employees about risks and take appropriate steps to mitigate dangers. A worker who experiences an illness or injury caused by a workplace environment could apply for benefits through workers' compensation. No one needs to be at fault for an injured worker to qualify for paid medical treatment and possible compensation for lost wages. Collecting benefits typically eliminates a person's right to sue an employer, but a worker might wish to discuss options after an accident with an attorney if an employer's negligence is a concern.

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