By Funmi Obisesan
Electricity is no doubt a very essential necessity in modern life. For artisans and small business owners like barbers, hairdressers and so on, regular electricity supply is actually an important tool required for the smooth running of their businesses.
In the same vein, religious organisations rely on the supply of electricity for a comfortable atmosphere during their services.
The lack of electricity or its erratic supply by the distribution companies has left many people seeking alternative sources of power by themselves for the smooth running of their businesses or to enhance personal comfort at home, hence the ubiquity of generators.
Carbon-monoxide is the gas that is released into the atmosphere as you use your generator. The danger in this gas is that it does not have an odour that could make us perceive its presence in our environment. This gas does not have a colour either, so we cannot easily identify its presence.
But do you know that a single generator can produce a hundred times more poisonous carbon-monoxide gases than a modern car’s exhaust?
Therefore, there has been a lot of tragic deaths as a result of generator fumes poisoning in the news, the latest being a family of eight in Ikom, Cross River State of Nigeria on July 29.
As carbon-monoxide is very poisonous it is very advisable to know the things that we can do to reduce the chances of having health issues from the usage of generators in homes and business places.
There is a technical term in the safety industry called the “exposure limit”. A lay-man way to apply this term specifically to this topic is that there is only so much of this gas that you can inhale over a period of time after which it will start to cause health issues. For example, assuming there is no electricity supply at work and the generator had to be put on throughout or for most of your working time for business activities to run smoothly, depending on where your work generator is located, there is the chance that carbon-monoxide is escaping into the office area and being inhaled by all. Let us also assume that when you later get home the same day, there is no electricity supply and you then had to put on the generator. Again depending on where your generator is located in your house, you may be breathing in more carbon-monoxide.
The total length of time that you have been exposed to the use of the generator – perhaps all day, every day or for most days in the week, week in week out, year-round – may accumulate towards your personal exposure limit.
Irrespective of health status, there is only so much of this carbon-monoxide gas that anyone can inhale over a period of time before various health issues develop. For some people depending on if they have other underlying health issues, just one exposure may be just too much for their body.
Where is your office/house/shop generator located?
Please check today. It has been observed that a lot of people literarily locate their generator behind their window. This is very dangerous as the chance is very high that a lot of the carbon-monoxide gas may be escaping back into your building premises.
Some generators are not located behind the window or too close to the door, but they are not located far enough away from the closest human activities (human activities meaning the offices, your house, your shop, the church auditorium, the mosque, the school classrooms and so on).
Once again, please take a moment to check where your generator is located. If you find out that it is less than 20 feet further away from the door or window, please consider changing the location.
Please locate your generator at least 20 – 25 feet away from your building or where the closest human activities take place at your (business) premises to eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
*Funmi Obisesan TechIOSH SIIRSM MSM is a safety professional, vlogger and the author of “General Health and Safety, A-Z in the African Perspectives”. She can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org