Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement

Preventing Injuries

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colourless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.

CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns and gas ranges or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Every home should have at least one working carbon monoxide detector. The detector’s batteries should be checked twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are checked.

  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, camper or tent.
  • Never use a generator inside a home, basement or garage, even if the doors and windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented.
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter. If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional immediately


chainsaw Read the safety manual that came with your chain saw. Read the owner’s manual concerning kickback.

How to reduce the risk of kickback injury

  • Use a reduced kickback bar, low kickback chain and chain brake.
  • Avoid contact between the bar tip and any object.
  • Hold the chain saw firmly with both hands.
  • Do not over-reach.
  • Do not cut above shoulder height.
  • Check the chain brake frequently.
  • Follow sharpening and maintenance instructions for the chain saw.
  • Make sure your chain saw carburetor is properly adjusted.

Make sure that these chain saw features are working properly:

  • chain brake (manual or inertia)
  • chain catcher
  • working safety throttle switch
  • working on/off switch
  • spark arrester

Have several commercially sharpened saw chains to match your chain saw and bar. You can immediately dull a chain saw chain by hitting the ground with the tip, cutting dirty wood or hitting a rock or nails.

Fill a gas-powered chain saw when the engine is cool. If the saw is out of gas, let it cool 30 minutes before refueling. Do not smoke when refueling the saw.

When clearing tree and wood debris, you should wear:

  • a helmet system (head, face and hearing protection)
  • cotton or leather gloves
  • chain saw protective chaps or chain saw protective pants
  • a pair of chain saw protective work boots with steel toes

Carry the chain saw with the engine off. Look out for hazards, such as broken or hanging branches, attached vines or a dead tree that is leaning.

Be careful cutting dead trees. If the tree is broken and under pressure, make sure you know which way the pressure is going. If you’re not sure, make small cuts to release some of the pressure before cutting up the section.

Be careful of young trees that other trees have fallen on. They act like spring poles and may propel the chain saw back into your leg.

Felling a dangerous broken tree should be left to a professional cutter. A downed tree may weigh several tons and can easily injure or kill an unaware chain saw operator.

When cutting a downed tree, place a plastic wedge into the cut to keep your chain saw from binding up. They are available from chain saw dealers and sometimes come packaged with the saw.

Use a chain saw from the ground level only, not on a ladder or in a tree.

When felling a tree, keep everyone at least two tree lengths away.

You should have a preplanned escape route. It should be at a 45° angle from the projected direction of a falling tree. Make sure there is nothing that could trip or stop you from making a quick retreat.

Never cut when tired or alone. Always work with a partner but never around children or pets.


Purchasing a Generator

When buying a generator, make sure you get one that is rated for the amount of power that you think you will need. Look at the labels on lighting, appliances and equipment you plan to connect to the generator to determine the amount of power that will be needed to operate the equipment.

For lighting, the wattage of the light bulb indicates the power needed. Appliances and equipment usually have labels indicating power requirements on them. Choose a generator that produces more power than will be drawn by the combination of lighting, appliances and equipment you plan to connect to the generator including the initial surge when it is turned on. If your generator does not produce adequate power for all your needs, plan to stagger the operating times for your equipment.

If you cannot determine the amount of power that will be needed, ask an electrician to determine that for you. If your equipment draws more power than the generator can produce, you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment.

Using a Generator

The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Follow the directions supplied with the generator.

Under no circumstances should portable generators be used indoors, including inside a garage, carport, basement, crawlspace or other enclosed or partially-enclosed area, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO buildup in the home (see carbon monoxide poisoning).

To avoid electrocution, keep the generator dry and do not use it in rain or wet conditions. To protect the generator from moisture, operate it on a dry surface under an open canopy, such as under a tarp held up on poles. Dry your hands if wet before touching the generator.

Be sure to turn the generator off and let it cool down before refueling. Gasoline spilled on hot engine parts could ignite.

Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator. Local laws may restrict the amount of fuel you may store or the storage location. Ask your local fire department for additional information about local regulations.

Store the fuel outside of living areas in a locked shed or another protected area. Do not store it near a fuel-burning appliance, such as a natural gas water heater in a garage. If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and can be ignited by the appliance's pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.

Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is rated (in watts or amps) at least equal to the sum of the connected appliance loads. Check that the entire cord is free of cuts or tears and that the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, a practice known as “backfeeding.” This is an extremely dangerous practice that presents an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbors served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household protection devices.