Monthly Archives: September 2014

The killer in your lounge room

Brothers Chase and Tyler Robinson from Mooroopna died as a result of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from an unserviced gas heater.  This is not an isolated incident. According to Energy Safe Victoria, nine people lost their lives in Victoria as a result of CO poisoning since 2000.

CO is an odourless, colourless, tasteless and non-irritating gas produced from incomplete combustion of carbonaceous fossil fuel. This means that we can’t see or smell it, making us unaware of exposure to it.

Amongst other causes, improperly maintained heating systems can lead to excessive emissions of CO. When inhaled, CO is easily absorbed into the bloodstream, where it combines with haemoglobin reducing oxygen carrying capacity to the vital organs.

The poisoning severity depends on CO concentration, the length of exposure and the general health of the exposed person. Most vulnerable are the elderly, infants, and those suffering from cardiovascular or lung disease, anaemia, increased metabolic rate and pregnant women for whom exposure can lead to fetal developmental disorders and fetal death.

CO exposure symptoms may resemble the flu or food poisoning, making identification of the real cause difficult.  Early symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. These symptoms should not be ignored, particularly if they consistently occur in the same environment. Repeated exposure further affects the brain and heart function and can be fatal.

To reduce the risk, household gas heaters should be inspected and serviced regularly. Energy Safe Victoria recommends biennial maintenance servicing.  Another method of protection is the installation of an electronic carbon monoxide alarm, similar to a residential smoke detector.

Beware of the killer in your lounge room.

 

References

Energy Safe Victoria (2011). Landlords, agents and tenants, Your responsibilities. Victoria: Energy Safe Victoria. Retrieved from http://www.esv.vic.gov.au/Portals/0/About%20ESV/Files/Brochures/Landlord.pdf

 Kao, L. W. & Nanagas, K. A. (2004). Carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 22, 985-1018. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.05.003

 Meredith, T. & Vale, A. (1988). Carbon monoxide poisoning. British Medical Journal, 296, 77-79. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2544692/pdf/bmj00267-0003.pdf

Raub, J. A., Mathieu-Nolf, M., Hampson, N. B. & Thom, S. R. (2000). Carbon monoxide poisoning – a public health perspective. Toxicology, 145, 1-14. Retrieved from http://centerforhealthyhousing.org/Portals/0/Contents/Article0364.pdf

The Australian. (2013). Victoria landlord cleared over deaths of Chase and Tyler Robinson. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/victoria-landlord-cleared-over-deaths-of-chase-and-tyler-robinson/story-e6frg6nf-1226688051777

This post was written by Gosia for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational, Health and Safety 2014

Seek and you shall find?

With numerous risks associated with utilising hazardous chemicals; it is important to ensure safe storage and practice to reduce the risk of harm to employees and the environment.

Material Safety data sheets (MSDS) are essential to safety in the workplace with their comprehensive information on hazardous chemicals. Provided by the supplier to companies who purchase them directly; what happens in the cases where small to medium enterprises (SME) purchase these chemicals from wholesalers?

I decided to put it to the test; to determine how easy is it to obtain MSDS and to determine whether wholesalers ensure that the purchaser is aware of the potential risks and hazards. To my surprise there is no excuse from SMEs not to obtain this information; that is if they seek it.

Acetone, a solvent used in many industries and professions for cleaning and wiping surfaces and equipment, can be easily purchased from the local hardware store. There are risks due to its flammable properties and it being an irritant. Easily absorbed through the skin, lungs or ingested, acetone can cause nausea, headaches and even respiratory failure (Bradberry, 2007).

On entering a large hardware franchise I proceeded to purchase 4 litres of Acetone and as I would purchase a loaf of bread from the supermarket, there were no questions or comments. On a separate incident I asked a worker if the MSDS was available for the acetone product, swiftly she accessed the intranet system and printed it for me. In searching the same product on the online store, the MSDS is available, but only by clicking on an additional product information tab (Recochem Inc., 2011).

MSDS for chemical products bought from local hardware stores and online are easily accessible and easily missed if not requested. This post hopes to increase awareness of seeking these MSDS by SMEs to increase workplace health and safety; as if you seek, you will find.

 

Bibliography

 Bradberry. S. (2007). Acetone. Medicine, 35 (11). doi:10.1016/j.mpmed.2007.08.012

 Recochem Inc. (2011). Material safety data sheet: Acetone. Retrieved from https://2ecffd01e1ab3e9383f007db7b9624bbdf022e3b5395236d5cf8.ssl.cf4.rackcdn.com/Product/675f0d99-0f8a-4ee4-a5a3-efdd28d3d102.pdf 

This post was written by Benjamin for the subject Screening and Monitoring in Occupational Health and  Safety 2014