Industry News

Proper Ventilation in the Workplace

When cold weather sets in, Service Departments close their garage doors. This has an immediate impact on the air quality in the shop, which can lead to service technician complaints centered on inadequate shop ventilation. Vehicle exhaust is loaded with thousands of contaminants resulting from the incomplete combustion of fuel. The primary culprit and largest component of exhaust that threatens employee health is carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and one of the most common industrial hazards. Mild poisoning can cause such symptoms as nausea, dizziness, or headaches, while severe poisoning can result in brain or heart damage or even death.

Serious stuff! But also consider that even moderate levels of CO can be responsible for employees not being attentive at times, which makes them more likely to make mistakes or to have accidents. As the amount of carbon monoxide in the air increases, more serious symptoms may develop, such as lack of coordination, weakness, and confusion. Therefore, it is easy to see how poor shop ventilation can translate to accidents and reduced productivity. Sounds expensive!

How much CO in the air is acceptable?

CO is not a naturally occurring component of air. It results from the incomplete combustion of burning materials. OSHA sets 35 parts per million of air (ppm) as the maximum CO level for shop areas. Office areas, including the Parts Department, would fall under the ASHRAE indoor air quality standard, which is 10 ppm.

We would recommend that members take action to reduce CO levels to below 20 ppm in the shop and to as close to 0 ppm as possible in other areas of the dealership.

How can shop air quality be improved?

  • Properly service and maintain the shop exhaust ventilation system to ensure optimal performance throughout the winter months.
  • Regularly inspect and replace any defective exhaust hoses.
  • Install carbon monoxide level direct reading monitors to identify areas where carbon monoxide is likely to be present. Areas to consider are the Service Department, customer waiting areas, and Parts Department. If levels exceed the levels mentioned above, mitigation efforts should be made.
  • Demand and enforce that all technicians are using exhaust hoses at all times when vehicles are running in the shop unless they are coming and going -- NO exceptions!
Good air quality is an essential ingredient for a safe and healthy work environment. Members must ensure that both adequate shop ventilation and proper employee work practices maintain carbon monoxide at the lowest possible level.