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Threat of carbon monoxide exposure at work rises in winter

Published on Feb 22, 2019 at 6:33 pm in Firm News, workers' compensation.

Cold weather in Pennsylvania might tempt some workers to operate space heaters or portable generators in enclosed spaces. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers die every year after exposure to carbon monoxide when equipment that combusts fuel is used in such enclosed areas. Incidents of exposure increase during the winter months because workers want to stay warm. That’s why OSHA issued a reminder to alert employers to train their employees about the hazards of carbon monoxide.

Since the gas has no odor, people must rely on medical symptoms or carbon monoxide detectors to warn them about rising gas levels. Exposure to the gas triggers headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, nausea or a constricted feeling in the chest. As exposure advances, people might suffer brain damage or die.

Space heaters and portable generators are common sources of exposure, but any motorized vehicles running inside, pumps, compressors, welders or any equipment burning gas or diesel could poison people in poorly ventilated areas. When equipment like this must be used, employers should install ventilation systems that can keep gas at safe levels.

An illness resulting from environmental conditions at a workplace could warrant workers’ compensation benefits. However, an occupational illness might be more difficult to prove than an obvious physical injury. Because employers sometimes dispute insurance claims, an employee might want legal representation when pursuing payment for medical care and compensation for lost wages. An attorney could manage the paperwork and strive to meet filing deadlines. The organization of medical evidence by an attorney could strengthen a claim and limit an insurer’s ability to deny coverage.

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