Carbon monoxide safety is something that you simply can’t take for granted. Whether you’re working on your car in your own garage, renting a lift space at a local DIY shop or simply sitting in traffic, this odorless, invisible gas can have a significant impact on your health — and could potentially kill you if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
Let’s take a look at three safety tips that you should always take into account when working in an environment where carbon monoxide might be present.
1. Ventilation, Ventilation, Ventilation
All automobile engines produce carbon monoxide as part of their tailpipe emissions. While smaller motors typically generate less, if you’re working in an enclosed space, it’s only a matter of time before there’s enough of this gas in the air to become a serious concern. Any work space you use must offer adequate ventilation to ensure that none of these exhaust gasses concentrate to the point where they pose a danger. If the space you are using doesn’t provide enough natural ventilation to guarantee carbon monoxide safety, then you should install tailpipe vent tubes that fit over the exhaust tip of a given vehicle in order to transport engine emissions safely outdoors.
2. Use a Detector
Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous? The fact that it’s undetectable by human senses is merely one reason this gas is so treacherous. As your body is exposed to CO, it binds to the blood in the same way that oxygen does, preventing your lungs from providing you with the actual O2 you need to stay healthy and alert. Gradually, your cognition and your respiratory and cardiovascular systems begin to slow down, causing many victims of carbon monoxide poisoning to lose consciousness without any warning that they’ve been exposed to the gas.
To maximize your carbon monoxide safety, even in a well-ventilated space, you must install at least one CO detector in the area where people and machines work most closely together. There are even carbon monoxide monitoring kits that connect directly to your vehicle. Simple plug-in wall units can sound an alarm if carbon monoxide is concentrated at a dangerous level, giving you the warning that your body can’t provide and helping you clear the air and stay safe.
A garage isn’t the only place you need to stay aware of carbon monoxide safety. If you are test driving a car after a repair during the winter time, you should stay conscious of how much snow is packed underneath the vehicle, especially while idling or sitting in traffic. A heavily snowed-over road can trap exhaust gases under the car, funneling them up through the floorboards and vehicle ventilation systems and eventually concentrating them in the cabin where CO can work its deadly bonding in your bloodstream. If you happen to be caught in a deep snow traffic jam, consider shutting down the motor instead of idling to maintain maximum safety.
Carbon monoxide safety is of the utmost importance for anyone working on or driving a vehicle.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.