The video, produced by Marine and Safety Tasmania, provides an educational insight on the dangers from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning onboard. CO is colorless, odorless and tasteless, poisonous gas produced whenever something burns, by internal combustion engines, most likely by petrol engines. Warning signs of CO poisoning include flu-like symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue and feeling extremely nauseated – especially if more than one person onboard is experiencing these signs.
In June 2016, a couple onboard a boat were found deceased. Investigation by the UK MAIB identified that the couple had died from carbon monoxide poisoning and concluded to the following:
- The source of the carbon monoxide was exhaust fumes from the boat’s large inboard petrol engine.
- The engines exhaust emissions contained very high levels of CO even when idling.
- The boat’s habitable spaces were not adequately ventilated; the forepeak cabin’s deck hatch and port holes were shut.
- The boat’s occupants were not alerted to the danger because a carbon monoxide alarm was not fitted.
The Michigan Department of Community Health recommends the following:
- Find out from your employer whether your workplace is in compliance with OSHA’s CO permissible exposure limit.
- Carefully follow the instructions and warning labels on all fuel-powered tools and generators.
- Stay cognizant of ventilation issues, especially when working indoors.
- If you believe a worker may be experiencing CO-poisoning symptoms, move him or her outside immediately, and alert your manager.
- Never ignore CO poisoning symptoms. Get to an emergency room or call 911 if you or your co-workers feel sick. CO poisoning can be determined by a quick blood test done soon after exposure.
The UK MAIB has earlier advised on dangers of CO poisoning:
- Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion appliances fueled by oils, solid fuel or gas. As it has no smell, no taste, is colourless and is extremely difficult for human senses to detect, it is essential that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted in areas where carbon monoxide could accumulate and pose a risk to health (such as the accommodation areas of motor cruisers). When selecting a carbon monoxide alarm, preference should be given to those marked as meeting safety standard EN 50291-2:2010, which are intended for use in a marine environment. It is essential to fit alarms following the manufacturer’s guidance, to test them routinely using the test button and not to ignore them.
- The use of canopies can potentially increase the risk of poisoning, even when a boat is making way. Although external engine exhaust outlets discharge exhaust fumes into the open, the wind, aerodynamic effects and the proximity of nearby structures frequently result in the fumes entering the boat. Ensure that all spaces, including those under a canopy or an awning are always well ventilated. Never ignore the smell of exhaust fumes in any enclosed space.
- Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Its symptoms can be similar to colds. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, stop the source, get to the open air and seek medical attention.