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Dangers of Carbon Monoxide


Stay safe by staying alert when using gas-powered equipment.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a very real threat to farmers. In their line of work, farmers use gasoline-powered equipment just about every day. Generators, pumps, pressure washers, trucks and tractors all produce carbon monoxide gas that can be toxic.

The risk is real

Around 500 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning and another 15,000 are sickened from it. The gas is odorless, colorless and non-irritating, and therefore almost impossible to detect. Plus, many people don’t realize that small gas engines can produce almost as much exhaust as large engines.

Some real-life examples of CO poisoning to consider:

  • A farmer in Iowa died after pressure washing his barn for 30 minutes.
  • A young swine-confinement worker was killed when he used the restroom. The source of the CO gas was a stationary high-pressure hot water heater located in the room.
  • A worker in Kentucky collapsed and nearly died while sitting for several hours on a tobacco setter behind a slow-moving tractor. The exhaust pipe was under the tractor and the fumes were directed toward the worker.

Safety tips

It is important to be aware of your surroundings and have safety precautions in place when operating equipment. It’s also critical to be able to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Following a few simple safety precautions could prevent almost all carbon monoxide accidents.

  • Get out. Don't use gas-powered engines indoors.
  • Drive out. Avoid leaving running trucks, tractors and other machines in a confined space.
  • Avoid. Use tools and equipment powered by electricity when possible.
  • Alert. Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed wherever gas-powered engines are used.
  • Inspect. Make sure equipment is working properly with annual inspections.

There are certain situations where carbon monoxide poisoning is more common. Be aware of your safety especially in these instances:

  • Winter: Studies have shown that more CO poisoning occurs during winter. People use space heaters and generators more often, and ventilation is usually exchanged for warmth. The simple act of warming a car in a garage for a few minutes can make a person ill.
  • Pressure washers: Farm workers frequently use pressure washers to clean up barns, stalls and other closed-off spaces. Avoid accidents by leaving the pressure washer outside and running only the hose into the space to clean.
  • Holes in exhaust systems: Holes in the tubes of gas-powered equipment can leak carbon monoxide gas. The exhaust should be directed up and away from the engine, and the system should be kept in good working order.
  • High-pressure hot water tanks: Vent pipes that are corroded, ill-fitting or disconnected on propane water tanks can emit CO at a dangerous rate.

First aid

It is important to look out for symptoms of CO poisoning in case someone has an accident so that the proper care can be administered as quickly as possible. Symptoms can include:

  • Red, flushed face
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Profound tiredness
  • Headache, achy muscles, or a tight chest
  • Dizziness and confusion

With continued exposure, the person might lose consciousness, have a seizure, or suffer respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
If carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred:

  • Immediately move the person into fresh air.
  • Call 911, regardless if the person seems to be okay after a few minutes. Medical attention is required for all cases of CO poisoning.
  • If it is safe, turn off the source of the exhaust fumes.

Special Member Savings

At Southern States®, we are proud to be one of the nation's largest farmer-owned cooperatives. Southern States has partnered with Nationwide® Agribusiness Insurance to offer Southern States Cooperative member-producers in North Carolina and Virginia special discounts on insurance. In addition to giving you exclusive insurance savings, we're also joining forces to support the cooperative that means so much to you.

Nationwide® Agribusiness is the number 1 insurer of farms in the U.S. and a leading insurer of commercial agribusiness. Go to southernstatesnwag.com to find a local agent.


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