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Safety At Sea: The Warning Signs Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is extremely dangerous to humans. Carbon monoxide is harmful when it is inhaled because once it is in the body, it can displace oxygen in the blood which deprives the heart, brain and other organs of the oxygen they need to function.  There is no way for a person to detect carbon monoxide, so if the gas is present, it is possible to lose consciousness and suffocate within minutes.

Carbon monoxide is a very common industrial hazard because it results from the incomplete burning of natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood.  It is produced in internal combustion engines, boilers and furnaces. Onboard ships, carbon monoxide is a problem in engine rooms, boiler rooms, near machinery, near vents and inclosed in spaces OSHA considers dockworkers, maritime workers and longshoremen to be at high risk for carbon monoxide exposure. Learn more about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning aboard vessels in our article, “Collapsed Aboard Ship? You May Be A Victim Of Maritime Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.”

If you are exposed to carbon monoxide, the first symptoms you notice may include tightness across the chest, headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, abdominal pain, or nausea.  If you have heart problems, you may feel sudden chest pain.  If you notice any of these symptoms, go to a well-ventilated area and call for help.

Symptoms will worsen with prolonged or high-level exposure and can include blurred vision, vomiting, depression, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, muscle weakness, seizures, collapse and loss of consciousness. Smokers and those with heart problems are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

As exposure continues, tissues in the brain and heart begin to die.  Victims sustain permanent brain and heart damage and are at high risk of death.  A person who is sleeping or intoxicated can die from carbon monoxide poisoning and never experience warning symptoms.

Federal regulations require maritime employers to provide seamen with a safe work environment.  For a seaman, carbon monoxide detectors may be a necessary part of a safe work environment.  If you have suffered a carbon monoxide injury while working aboard a vessel on navigable waters, you may be able to claim Jones Act compensation from your employer.  To discuss your own claim with a Louisiana maritime attorney, contact The Young Firm at 504-680-4100.

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