Recently a client called me to a carbon monoxide incident in a Calgary parkade. This isn’t unusual in January, for reasons I’ve explained in past articles. This one, however, was a bit different.
It happened while workers were cleaning the parkade. That’s an activity that usually occurs in the spring, so I did not expect to encounter it in January.
Upon inspection, I noticed that the exhaust fan was not working correctly. This is a disturbingly common problem we see in Calgary parkades.
Because the fan wasn’t circulating clean air quickly enough under normal circumstances, it became hazardous when combined with the additional variable of gas-powered cleaning equipment.
To make matters worse, the cleaning crew was a group of new Canadians unfamiliar with their rights regarding workplace safety. In speaking with them, I learned they were uncomfortable criticizing their company’s safety policies to their supervisor.
Most crews still use a gasoline-powered pressure washer to clean parkade walls and ceilings, even if they choose a low emission sweeper for the floors. This means even the most careful teams are opening themselves up to risk if they obstruct the CO meter during their work.
Many commercial buildings require contractors to have a health and safety plan, including most large office towers. Often residential apartments and condos do not have this requirement, even though they would be liable if a hazardous gas incident harmed a worker or occupant.
Here are some steps you can take to avoid having a costly and dangerous carbon monoxide incident.
Make sure you have an audible and visual carbon monoxide alarm. Many models do not sound outside the mechanical room. To eliminate liability for incidents, you must ensure your parkade has an audible and visual alarm that will notify occupants of problems.
Ensure a specialist in hazardous gases regularly calibrates and inspects monitoring equipment. Many building operators try to save money by asking their mechanical contractor to oversee this task, which leaves them open to incidents and subsequent liability.
Install water-resistant carbon monoxide detectors. If your sensors are not water-resistant, some cleaners may try to disable or cover them during the cleaning process.
Require contractors to have a health and safety plan for employees. In addition to performing your own hazard assessment, make sure any contractors also have a health and safety plan.
By taking these simple precautions, you can breathe easy knowing you are protecting yourself as well as your occupants.
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