Six Ways to Help Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While incidents of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning may not be top of mind for the hotel and hospitality industry, it’s important to take preventive measures to protect your guests and employees against this potentially life-threatening hazard. Exposure to CO decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen from lungs to tissues and organs, which can lead to cardiac and nervous system damage or failure, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Here are steps you can take to help protect staff, guests, and others from CO poisoning:

  1. Properly vent and inspect all areas with oil or gas heaters and boilers.
    • For laundry rooms, check that exterior vents are clean so that dryers can operate efficiently and safely.
    • In swimming pool and mechanical rooms with water heaters, confirm ventilation systems are working and exterior vents and screens are clean.
    • During cold weather, make sure exterior vents do not freeze up or become blocked by snowdrifts or ice.
    • Check heat exchangers for corrosion, cracks, or other damage and repair if needed.
  2. Install approved, hardwired and battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors. Also be sure to check state and local codes as carbon monoxide detection equipment and location requirements can vary. Place CO detectors:
    • In common areas,
    • In guest rooms with gas fireplaces or other fossil fuel-fired appliances, and
    • In and outside mechanical and maintenance rooms with gas-fired equipment (such as water heaters, commercial dryers, gas irons for linens, swimming pool or spa/hot tub heaters, kitchen cooking lines, etc.).
  3. Test CO detectors on a monthly basis and document findings in writing. Replace batteries as needed or as specified by the equipment manufacturer.
  4. Train all employees on carbon monoxide risks, including:
    • Common symptoms of CO exposure, such as headaches, dizziness, confusion, and nausea.
    • Key actions to take if a CO detection system’s alarm is activated: Call 911 to report the alarm and immediately evacuate the area. If safe to do so and without entering the contaminated space, open outside doors and windows to improve ventilation and contact the fire department to inspect the area.
  5. Use professionals for equipment installation and maintenance.
    • Invite local gas utility companies or vendors to conduct annual checkups of all liquid propane, natural gas, or other fossil fuel-powered equipment and of all fixed-station CO detectors.
    • Have equipment and appliances serviced by qualified technicians.
  6. Do not permit the use of CO-producing items in unventilated areas. For example, do not:
    • Use gas-powered equipment, such as generators, grills, or fuel-burning space heaters in indoor environments.
    • Leave vehicles, such as cars or delivery trucks, running in enclosed spaces (such as parking garages).

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.