Carbon monoxide (CO) fumes

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas made by incomplete ignition or burning of carbon-based fuels like petrol, propane, charcoal, wood and oil.

You can't smell CO, see it or taste it. But it can pose a real threat to the personal safety of those on board your boat.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a common part of exhaust gases from engines, generators and stoves using any kind of fuel. It is colourless, odourless and very toxic. It is heavier than air so it accumulates in restricted spaces such as cabins and engine bays, and on low surfaces such as the water beside exhaust ports and under duck boards at the stern of powerboats.

How to avoid CO poisoning

  • Ensure inboard engines exhaust outside the vessel
  • Make sure canvas enclosures are adequately ventilated
  • Ensure stoves and fuel heaters are exhausted outside the cabin
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating
  • Keep cabins and engine bays well ventilated
  • Make sure the engine bay vents are outside the cabin
  • Be aware of another vessel's exhaust. Carbon monoxide from the boat docked next to you can be just as deadly
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms in cabins and keep them serviced regularly
  • Be wary when external exhaust gases are blown by the wind into the cabin or into a sheltered part of the deck for any length of time
  • Always have your equipment installed and serviced by a competent person

Symptoms of CO poisoning

  • Dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated.

Treating CO poisoning

  • Get the victim into fresh air, being careful not to be exposed yourself
  • Seek immediate medical attention.