Safety Alert - Wood Pellets: Toxic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Following a recent fatal accident, the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) is issuing an urgent alert to all workers, and others, on the inherent toxic dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning associated with  Wood Pellets.

Wood Pellets (see picture), may look harmless, however even when transported or stored in normal conditions, Wood Wood Pellets PicturePellets can emit Carbon Monoxide. Unnoticed, the Carbon Monoxide can quickly build up to toxic levels.

Carbon Monoxide will be present wherever Wood Pellets are transported & stored. Workers must be informed of the significant risk and dangers of carbon monoxide exposure associated with Wood Pellets.

Employers must identify such hazards in their workplace and produce written risk assessments and ensure arrangements are in place to ensure safety of employees.

Employers should:

1. IDENTIFY where wood pellets are stored (even if only for a short period of time).

2. ERECT and maintain asphyxiation warning signs.

3. PREVENT un-authorised access.

4. PREPARE & implement safe systems of work based on written risk assessment(s)

Employees should:

1. ALWAYS Assume Carbon Monoxide is present in areas where Wood Pellets are stored

2. NOT ENTER or place their head into a wood pellet storage unit/tank/vessel, even for a very short period of time without necessary precautions.

3. NOT ENTER storage unit/tank/vessel unless fully trained and competent in confined space entry.

4. TAKE extreme care during maintenance, especially when blockages happen, or when low levels of pellets occur.

5. KNOW that the presence of Carbon Monoxide cannot be determined without specialist equipment.

Wood Pellet storage tanks may also contain augers/screw feeds. Contact with these devices may result in serious injury

Additional Information

  1. HSA Code of Practice, Confined Space Entry here
  2. HSA Wood Pellet Alert from 2011 here
  3. Further information about Carbon Monoxide may be obtained at here
  4. HSE (UK) Safe storage of wood pellet and wood chip fuel, click here
  5. Danish Technological Institute Storage & handling of Wood Pellets- pdf click here
  6. Norden Innovation Centre - Guidelines for Storing & Handling of Solid Biofuels, click here