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Health and Safety Risks from Toxic Gases

The presence of toxic gases can create a serious health and safety danger to people in the vicinity. These gases are inhaled and can affect the human body in different ways, but can cause serious illness or even death in levels of high concentration or over a prolonged period of time. As such the threat from toxic gases and fumes needs to be covered on any programme of health and safety training which is provided to the employees of a business. The potential dangers and serious consequences associated with the inhalation of toxic gases means it is an essential element of any training programme, and will usually be covered in the module on COSHH (the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) which covers the various health risks associated with harmful substances which can affect the human body in various ways through ingestion, inhalation or coming into contact with the skin. Such are the dangers and the ease of which they can cause severe damage to the body that COSHH and hazardous substances are included on many different health and safety courses of various lengths including the NEBOSH General Certificate and the CITB/ConstructionSkills courses like the Site Managers SMSTS.

Two of the most likely toxic gases which are likely to be encountered by employees are carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This is primarily because both are typically released in high quantities during fires, and so any large blaze in a place of work will create a tremendous amount of these two dangerous gases. In actual fact, the inhalation of smoke and toxic gases often causes more deaths and health issues than the flames themselves whenever people are affected by fires in the workplace (or even at home for that matter).

Of the two, carbon monoxide is often considered the most dangerous, even though both can cause serious illness and death. This is due to a few reasons, most notably that only a small percentage concentration in the air is enough to cause unconsciousness and death in a very short space of time, coupled with the fact that it is an invisible and odourless gas which means without the presence of a carbon monoxide alarm it will be impossible to detect before it has had a significant effect upon the body in terms of impaired judgement and possible loss of consciousness. Of course, if a person becomes unconscious and there is nobody around to help straight away then death is almost inevitable.

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