Family Dies While Using a Generator
Last month was the first anniversary of the death of a father and his seven children that were fatally poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO). Rodney Todd was loved by all, his family as well as by all his neighbors. It was reported that he was a good father and provider. Unfortunately, rather than pay to have the electricity turned on in the house, the family used a portable generator instead. It was left running overnight to keep the family warm in the cold Maryland winter. Tragically, no one in the family home woke up the next morning. The link to the full news report is at the bottom of the right column.
Portable generators are often used to supply temporary power to jobsite trailers, and remote workplaces in addition to being used following hurricanes or wildfires to provide electricity where there is none. They can be a good tool or piece of equipment to provide resources when needed. However, if not used properly, there are certain hazards that come with the use of generators.
Hazards common to generator use:
- Electrical shock or electrocution if not set up properly.
- Carbon monoxide if the exhaust is not vented properly.
- Fire hazards if the unit is not refueled properly, or the fuel is stored improperly.
- Noise and vibration hazards.
Safe generator use:
- Use only in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- When plugging in appliances to the generator, use the manufacturer’s supplied cords or cords that are inspected, in good condition and appropriately grounded.
- Keep the generator dry; cover it in rain or in wet conditions.
- Keep a three to four-foot clearance around the generator.
- Know the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning (see below).
- Before refueling the generator, shut it down and let it cool. This helps to prevent fires.
- All fuel containers for generator fuel must be approved, properly designed for the storage of fuels, and properly vented.
- Never smoke while refueling or in the immediate area of the stored fuel.
- Store all fuel for home generators outside and in a secure, well ventilated area.
- Ventilate. Using a generator inside with the windows open is not enough ventilation to ensure your safety!
- If possible, position the generator away from work areas and gathering areas to prevent hearing damage from the noise.
CO is a colorless, odorless, highly flammable, toxic, asphyxiating gas that may also cause damage to unborn children. CO is also a common component in the exhaust of most generators. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommended permissible exposure limit (PEL) for CO is 25 ppm. This is also the PEL as stated by the California OSHA. The federal OSHA limit is 50 ppm. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning. If you know when the exposure limit has been reached, and can observe these signs and symptoms, you will know to get away from the generator; get into fresh air and seek medical attention before it’s too late!
Signs and Symptoms of CO poisoning:
To help educate your coworkers and family/friends, we suggest showing them the short video found on the CDC link to the right.