Episode #58 “Any Carbon Monoxide in Your Shop?”

In today’s podcast, I discuss how to keep yourself safe from carbon monoxide poisoning while you work. This problem is especially prevalent in the winter months when shops are sealed for warmth. How can you know if you have an acceptable level of CO? And what can you do if you don’t?

What I Talk About

  • I’m reading an article by Mark Manley titled, “How Much Carbon Monoxide is in Your Shop?” appeared in the California Blacksmithing Association newsletter in December 2006 and originally in the Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association Newsletter.
  • The article states that a properly adjusted propane forge produces little to no carbon monoxide with proper ventilation. But how do you know if yours is properly adjusted? And how do you know if you have enough air flow?
  • The author suggests purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm for about $40. The unit plugs into the wall. It should have a digital display that reads from 0-999 parts per million (ppm) and will sound an 85-decibel alarm at 150 ppm.
  • OSHA regulations state that 50 ppm is the maximum allowable CO exposure for adults in an 8 hour period.
  • Here are some general guidelines about CO exposure:

-200 ppm will cause a slight headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness at 2-3 hours of exposure

-400 ppm will cause headache, fatigue, dizziness and nausea within 1-2 hours and is life threatening after 3 hours

-800 ppm will cause dizziness, nausea and convulsions within 45 minutes, unconsciousness within 2 hours and death in 2-3 hours

-1600 ppm causes death within 30 minutes

  • When the author plugged his new detector in he was surprised to find unsafe levels of 30-160 ppm over long periods of time.
  • He was able to adjust the air-fuel ratio and ventilation and it went down to 0 ppm.
  • He suggests everyone (whether using propane or coal) monitor their shops at all times and make these small adjustments for safety.

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