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Two poisoned by deadly gas

Two people were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning while working at Carterton District Council’s office building on Friday night. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

MARY ARGUE

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Two people poisoned by a deadly gas at Carterton District Council [CDC] offices were rushed to Masterton Hospital’s emergency department.

Emergency services descended on the council’s premises on Holloway St on Friday night after reports of contractors suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carterton’s fire brigade and Wellington Free Ambulance were called at about 8pm to attend to two JAE carpet cleaning employees who started displaying symptoms after working with machinery onsite.

Both were transported to the hospital by ambulance, one in a moderate condition.

A Wairarapa District Health Board spokesperson said the pair were assessed in the emergency department and discharged.

Medical staff also assessed a third person, a council staff member, who was supervising the contractors on site.

The CDC staff member was being monitored at home yesterday.

Carterton fire brigade station officer Brendon Allen said machinery operated by the contractors had caused an unhealthy build-up of carbon monoxide inside the building.

“The level [of gas] exceeded what was safe by quite some margin.”

He said the brigade flushed out the poisonous gas with a positive pressure ventilation fan stationed outside the building’s open front doors.

Allen said the remaining carbon monoxide was below the maximum acceptable level after an hour and a half.

“It was negligible by the time we left.”

CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the office building was continuing to be aired yesterday as a precaution, and an investigation into the incident would be launched.

“We take the health and safety of our staff and contractors very seriously, which is why we will be investigating the incident and seeking to determine what safety protocols the contractors had put in place.”

JAE’s Wairarapa manager, who wished to remain unnamed, said it was the first incident of its kind.

“It doesn’t normally happen. It was unfortunate circumstances.”

He said the situation was not as serious as it sounded, and the employees had experienced “a bit of giddiness”.

The manager said it was a warning and reminder to everyone to ensure workspaces were well ventilated, and he would follow up with the team.

Carbon monoxide is an odourless and colourless gas typically found in engine fuel fumes and un-flued heaters.

When inhaled, it restricts oxygen flow in the body, causing carbon monoxide poisoning.

If exposed for an extended period, it can be fatal.

Symptoms can include dizziness, confusion, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

Breathing fresh air will remove half of the carbon monoxide from the body in about five hours.

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