The recent tragedy in Scarborough, Ontario, that left one man dead and three others in hospital shows how important it is for property managers to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and reduce the risks for occupants.
CTV reports that the incident, which happened at a high-rise building near Eglinton Avenue and McCowan Road, involved a crew of four men who had been working with several gas-powered pressure washers in the building’s underground garage. According to reports, exhaust fans in the building were not serviceable and the men had been working in the enclosed space for about eight hours.
The deadly gas also seeped to the upper levels of the building, resulting in the evacuation of the first six floors. Tenants were able to take shelter in TTC buses until the building was deemed properly ventilated.
Carbon monoxide is often called the silent killer because it is an invisible, odourless and colourless gas. According to Statistics Canada, 380 accidental deaths were caused by carbon monoxide in Canada between 2000 and 2009.
With the help of the Canada Safety Council, here are four things all building landlords and owners should know about recognizing and preventing the deadly gas:
1. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels, such as natural gas, gasoline, oil, propane, wood or coal are burned and not properly ventilated. A blocked chimney or a poorly ventilated parking garage can cause a buildup of CO. Other risk factors include fuel-burning generators, space heaters, barbecues and charcoal grills that are brought indoors when they are intended for outdoor use.
2. Since December 2013, it is the law in Ontario to equip residential buildings with carbon monoxide detectors. Without properly working detectors in place, carbon monoxide has no obvious signs. Checking and monitoring detectors regularly will lower the risk, as will inspecting and maintaining exhaust fans, furnaces, chimneys and vents for blockages.
3. At low levels, symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure might include persistent headaches, sleepiness, shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms. If residents complain of these symptoms, it is important for management to get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air immediately. At higher levels of exposure, convulsions, coma and death and can occur within minutes.
4. Safety officials warn against idling vehicles in the garage, especially when the door is closed. Building owners and manager should instruct work crews to wear proper respiratory equipment if they are required to be in confined spaces where CO could be dangerous, such as parking garages.
Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine.
Image: When not properly maintained, gas stoves can cause incomplete combustion, creating carbon monoxide.