It’s likely that few of us would think of dry ice as a hazardous substance. In reality, however, dry ice – solid carbon dioxide – presents several risks. Most significant, it can create a suffocation hazard when it’s exposed to the atmosphere and displaces oxygen.
Here are three things to keep in mind in order to stay safe when handling dry ice.
1. Ensure adequate ventilation. When dry ice becomes airborne, it displaces oxygen, potentially causing anyone working in the area to experience headaches, lightheadedness and breathing difficulties that can lead to the sudden loss of consciousness and even death. This is especially true in enclosed spaces. That’s why you should handle dry ice only in well-ventilated areas.
2. Wear safety gear. Because dry ice is cold enough to cause permanent frostbite damage or ice burns when the skin or eyes aren’t protected, leather gloves or oven mitts should always be worn, as well as safety goggles.
3. Follow safe storage practices. Dry ice shouldn’t be kept in airtight or sealed containers. Instead, it should be stored in Styrofoam® coolers or other storage devices that are designed to vent under pressure.
(From the March 1, 2021, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To sign up for a no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)