Scheduled Maintenance for Online Services

Online Services will be unavailable due to scheduled maintenance from June 21 at 6 pm until June 24 at 8 am.  

Scheduled Maintenance for Online Services

Online Services will be unavailable due to scheduled maintenance from June 21 at 6 pm until June 24 at 8 am.  

Carbon Monoxide

Annual State of Safety 2023

Carbon Monoxide Exposure: The Top Safety Risk in BC

Each year, we measure the data we receive through incident and hazard reports to compile our risk register, which analyzes and ranks the top safety risks we encounter across the province. In the past two years, carbon monoxide (CO) exposure has topped the list. In 2023, we investigated 17 incidents involving exposure to CO, ranging from minor to severe, including one fatality.

CO gas is produced when we burn fuels like propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal, or wood. Because CO is odorless and tasteless, the only way to detect it in your home is with a CO detector. CO interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, which can lead to serious illness, severe side effects, or death.

The risk of CO exposure remains our top safety risk because of its severity but also because many people still aren’t aware of its causes or how they can prevent and detect it.

An Aging Natural Gas Furnace Results in a Near Miss

One common cause of CO exposure is aging or neglected gas equipment. As gas furnaces wear down, they have a higher risk of producing elevated levels of CO. When CO begins to spread throughout a home, this quickly creates a potentially lethal risk.

In February 2023, a malfunctioning natural gas furnace in a residential home in Abbotsford, BC began producing high concentrations of CO. The gas migrated into the home and rapidly reached dangerous levels in the living space. Two occupants of the home experienced exposure symptoms, including the loss of consciousness of one of the occupants. Fortunately, both occupants survived and were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

While most gas furnaces have a lifespan of between fifteen to twenty years, this home’s natural gas furnace was manufactured 54 years prior to the incident. The occupants had lived in the home for 17 years and the furnace had run well without any apparent issues, and they hadn’t serviced, maintained, or repaired it during that time beyond the occasional changing of an air filter. No CO detectors had been installed in the home.

To prevent an incident like this occurring in your home, we recommend installing CO detectors and having your furnace inspected and serviced annually by a certified individual.

"Two occupants of the home experienced exposure symptoms, including the loss of consciousness of one of the occupants."

A Portable Electric Generator Operated Indoors Leads to One Fatality

CO gas isn’t only produced when gas burns incompletely; it’s also a byproduct of burning gas normally. A gas-fueled generator, for example, produces high amounts of CO, which can build up fast, especially if operated in an enclosed space. Entering a space that’s filled with CO can be lethal within minutes.

In October 2023, an incident like this occurred in Sparwood, BC. A worker was inside a house while a gas-fueled electric generator was running indoors to provide power. While the generator was operating, it circulated exhaust gases containing CO into an enclosed basement. The exhaust gases circulated until the concentration of CO reached dangerous levels. The worker was found inside, deceased.

Rapid-onset or sudden exposure to high levels of CO can be lethal, fast, and without warning. In this hazardous environment there might be no opportunity to recognize typical CO symptoms and escape, potentially rendering you unconscious with continued exposure to the lethal effects of CO. To prevent an incident like this, we recommend never, under any circumstances, operating a gas-powered engine in an enclosed space.

Keeping the Public Informed to Mitigate the Risk

CO exposure continues to pose a significant risk within our safety system. A 2023 survey highlighted concerning trends, with only 42% of respondents reporting annual servicing of their gas appliances by licensed contractors, while 42% lacked CO detectors despite nearly half of British Columbians owning gas appliances.

To help fill this knowledge gap, our public safety campaigns and partnerships are designed to inform and educate as many people as we can about this serious risk to the safety of all British Columbians, with special attention to the most common causes of CO exposure.

Ultimately, our goal in 2023 and in 2024 is to help minimize CO exposure incidents, and this work will continue until we can remove CO exposure from our top five risks.

For a more in-depth look at some of the steps you can take to prevent CO exposure in your home, you can read the public safety and engagement section of our website.

"Ultimately, our goal in 2023 and in 2024 is to help minimize CO exposure incidents, and this work will continue until we can remove CO exposure from our top five risks."

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