Carbon Monoxide - The Silent Killer

Access the Perennial September 2022 Newsletter and please be sure to submit your near misses!

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, highly poisonous, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom connected by a triple bond. It is the simplest molecule of the oxocarbon family.

    Formula: CO
    IUPAC ID: Carbon monoxide
    Molar mass: 28.01 g/mol
    Density: 1.14 kg/m³
    Boiling point: -312.7°F (-191.5°C)
    Melting point: -337°F (-205°C)
    Soluble in: Water, Ethanol, Acetic acid, Benzene, Chloroform, Ethyl acetate, Ammonia solution

CO can arise from various sources such as fireplaces, indoor heaters, house fires, combustion engines, and others.  

CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel or organic materials such as within house fires, cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up within enclosed spaces and poison people and animals who breathe it.

In closed environments, the concentration of carbon monoxide can rise to lethal levels. On average, 170 people in the United States die every year from carbon monoxide produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters, and gas and kerosene room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators (and cars left running in attached garages); fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas. Many deaths have occurred during power outages due to severe weather such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2021 Texas power crisis.

Carbon monoxide combines with your blood hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin at any or all of the oxygen-binding sites of hemoglobin, and also acts to increase the stability of the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen, reducing the ability of the hemoglobin molecule to release oxygen bound to other oxygen-binding sites.

Carbon monoxide quickly binds with hemoglobin with an affinity greater than that of oxygen to form COHb.  When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the gas binds to hemoglobin in your blood. This prevents your blood from carrying oxygen to vital organs in your body. Carbon monoxide poisoning can damage your brain and heart and can be lethal. Brain damage can happen even after the poisoning has stopped.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, seizures, chest pain, disorientation, and loss of consciousness. CO poisoning needs to be treated right away by getting outside to fresh air and calling 911.   Carbon monoxide, CO, a product of incomplete combustion, binds to hemoglobin approximately 200 times better than oxygen. Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning often have blue lips and fingernails.

A deep red, flushed skin color (cherry red) is the one telltale indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning. It comes from high levels of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood. Unfortunately, it is often a postmortem examination that reveals such a bright red coloring.

CO leaves your body when you exhale, but it can take up to a day. Carboxyhemoglobin forms in red blood cells when carbon monoxide gets into your bloodstream. Its half-life is approximately four hours in the fresh air.

Often people ask, can't I simply use a Pulse Oximeter (O2 Meter) to check the blood O2?  This is NOT a reliable method to indicate if the person has good O2 saturation in the blood.  Because the CO molecule will bind to the hemoglobin causing a false positive reading on the O2 meter.  The use of a Pulse CO-oximetry device will properly measure the concentration of CO in the blood. The key to confirming the diagnosis is measuring the patient's carboxyhemoglobin (COHgb) level.

Every year when temperatures begin to drop around the country, many deaths occur due to improperly ventilated heating devices.  This can come from:

    Space Heaters burning fuels

It is important to check all connections annually to make sure no leaks occur. The best way to help identify issues with CO is to purchase an inexpensive home CO detector.  Cheap and easy to install, it is important to place these devices throughout the home where heating devices exist.  And a good idea to have in a home without space heaters.  And for those with Gas stoves/ovens.

Additionally, we also hear people who are cold sleeping in their cars, with the engine running and the engine exhaust overtaking them quickly without knowing as they sleep.  Dangerous!

We also find some people are buying fuel-burning heaters (either small propane or butane bottles) to heat their homes.  Some of these can also generate CO which can build up within the confined space.

CO applies to the Oil & Gas industry in many ways.  One specific area in which we want to provide awareness today if the often-forgotten air quality within the Sand Blasting Hooks used daily on the ROW.  We often assume the equipment will function flawless as it was yesterday, however, there are so many things that can cause a hazardous air situation within the hood.  This is why it is imperative that a CO monitor should be placed in line (visible and audible) with the intake air or within the blasting hood.  The employee performing the blasting will often NOT see or hear the alarms on the in-line device.  And those assigned to monitor the device might become in the blasting zone.  One way to eliminate those risks is to have a CO monitor within the blasting hood itself.  The operator will certainly hear this alarm.  This device should be tested daily prior to use as well.  Never perform blasting activities without this alarm.

Many reading this article can attest to hearing stories or visiting with an employee who complained about being dizzy or having a headache after blasting.  These are signs of CO poisoning.  Proper maintenance of the compressor, oil levels, hose maintenance, and filters on fresh-air hoses are critical.  The proper maintenance of these small items can prevent serious risk and or death.  Always check the blasting operator daily if they have a monitor within the hood or in-line and operable, this is basic PPE.  It happens often they do not. Ever heard "We had the monitor yesterday, but the other guy took it home and today we don't have one.  We just have a little blasting to do".  Make them get one.

 OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.134 (d)(2)(ii) requires that a breathing air compressor have certain safety devices (high-temperature or carbon monoxide alarm, or both) to protect the air quality. A scrubber could be incorporated into the air filtration system to assist in compliance with Grade D air requirements.

When hooking up a diesel-powered air compressor to a supplied-air respirator, there is a danger of CO poisoning. If the breathing air is supplied from an air compressor, this hazard can occur from either the breakdown of oil lubricants in the compressor or contamination from diesel exhaust.

When you're sandblasting, there are other common gaseous smells you might be used to, so the addition of CO will not alter those smells. When you inhale CO, it alters blood's oxygen levels and deprives vital organs of that oxygen.

CO can take over in mere minutes and cause you to pass out. If your helmet is still on when you're passed out, you will continue to breathe in the CO.

Below are some common devices to help prevent this.   CLEMCO -

CLEMCO CMS-2 - In-Line CO Monitor

CLEMCO CMS-4 - In-Helmet CO Monitor Alarm

Contractors (Employers) should perform scheduled, periodic inspections and maintenance by qualified persons on all equipment and machinery used by workers to ensure that it is continuously maintained in safe operating condition.  Employers should ensure that safety features incorporated into the design of machinery are in proper working order.  Employers should develop, implement, and enforce a written safety policy and safe work procedures designed to enable workers to recognize, understand, and control hazards. 


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Severe Weather Preparedness

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Do you have a plan?

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year. Although tornadoes are most common in the Central Plains and the southeastern United States, they have been reported in all 50 states.

What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

The links below will help you find out what you can do now to prepare for a tornado. Preparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.

  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips.
  • Sign Up for Notifications: Know how your community sends warnings. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smartphones to alert residents of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. If you live in a mobile home or home without a basement, identify a nearby safe building you can get too quickly, such as a church or family member.
  • Pick a safe room in your homes, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Check more ideas for your family plan at:
  • Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.
  • Prepare Your Home: Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
  • Help Your Neighbor: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt.

Check into these sites for additional information:

Lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year. Although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of year. Lightning kills about 20 people in the United States each year, and hundreds more are severely injured. This website will teach you how to stay safe and offer insight into the science of lightning. You'll find animated books about lightning, safety tips for all kinds of situations, games for kids and resources for teachers. You'll learn about lightning victims and survivors.

Hurricanes are among nature's most powerful and destructive phenomena. On average, 12 tropical storms, 6 of which become hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of 3 tropical storms, 2 of which become hurricanes form or move over the area during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Guam, the Northern Marianas, and Micronesia experience typhoons all year round but the main season is July through November with a peak from mid-August to mid-September. Over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, 1 of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater). By knowing what actions to take before the hurricane season begins when a hurricane approaches, and when the storm is in your area, as well as what to do after a hurricane leaves your area, you can increase your chance of survival. If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of a hurricane, please share your story, including the town and state you were in and the year the event took place... Please note that NS will then have permission to use your story for educational campaigns. Sharing this information may help save someone’s life in the future. Read stories from survivors and learn how to stay safe.

Hurricane Hazards
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.

  • Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States. Storm surges and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast.
  • Storm surges can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries.
  • Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
  • Winds from a hurricane can destroy buildings and manufactured homes. Signs, roofing material, and other items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
  • Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm.
  • Dangerous waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents, significant beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than 1,000 miles offshore.

The major hazards associated with hurricanes are:

Here are some valuable information resources for Hurricane Preparedness:

Flooding is a coast-to-coast threat to some parts of the United States and its territories nearly every day of the year. This site is designed to teach you how to stay safe in a flood event. If you know what to do before, during, and after a flood you can increase your chances of survival and better protect your property. For instance, it is vital to know what to do if you are driving and hit a flooded road. Here you will find an interactive flood map, information describing the different types of flooding and educational material.  You will also learn how the National Weather Service keeps you aware of potentially dangerous flooding situations through alerts and warnings.

Disaster Assistance & Relief

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811 - Call Before You Dig

Access Perennial August 2022 Newsletter and please be sure to submit your near misses!

WHAT IS 811?

August 11th is 811 National Awareness Day

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig should call 811 or go to their state 811 center’s website a few business days before digging to request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don’t unintentionally dig into an underground utility line.

811 protects you and your community! Hitting a buried line while digging can disrupt utility service, cost money to repair, or cause serious injury or death. Always contact your 811 centers, wait the required time for utilities to respond to your request, and ensure that all utilities have responded to your request before putting a shovel in the ground.

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JSA Planning with a Purpose

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Battling complacency is an everyday challenge for safe work behavior. Today, we will talk about pre-task planning with a purpose.

Lazily filling out a JSA is a wasted opportunity to establish what work is to be done and how it should look. Instead of just chatting about the work to be done and maybe discussing some hazards to look out for and certain tools or PPE to use, the job brief can be transformed into a proactive “stop work.” The goal is to establish what the task should look like and preemptively call for crew members to call for a stop if there is a violation of this expectation.

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Eagle Safety Summit 2022

Access Perennial May 2022 Newsletter and please be sure to submit your near misses!

This month’s safety topic highlights the recent Eagle Safety Summit held in Longview, Texas at the Applied Consultants office on April 27th and 28th.  Safety Directors from all Eagle Infrastructure Services companies (Applied Consultants, Cleveland Integrity Services, Encompass Services, Perennial Environmental, and Central NDT) participated in the face-to-face 2-Day safety conference reviewing existing processes as well as enhancing and developing the strategy for the next 12-24 months.

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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month: over 3,000 people die every year in crashes involving distracted drivers. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reminds us U Text. U-Drive. U Pay. Learn how you can reduce this number. #justdrive

You can also watch the NHTSA Video clip (30 seconds) "U Drive. U Text. U Pay", click here.

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