How To Operate Portable Generators Safely

Updated Feb 12, 2014


Portable generators can be useful machines for landscapers on jobsites. However, landscapers need to keep in mind, like with any piece of equipment, generators can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly.

Briggs & Stratton Corporation has put together a few tips on how landscapers can avoid serious hazards when using portable generators.

Small engines that emit potentially harmful carbon monoxide gas power portable generators, and if carbon monoxide is not allowed to exhaust from the engine in a safe manner, harmful effects – even death – can occur in a matter of minutes.

Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous because it is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas.

It is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned and can still be present even when exhaust fumes cannot be detected.

  • Only operate a portable generator outside, far away from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas accumulating and potentially being drawn toward occupied spaces.
  • Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in alarms with battery backup according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke alarms cannot detect carbon monoxide gas.
  • Do not run portable generators inside homes, garages, basements, crawlspaces, sheds or other partially enclosed spaces, even if using fans or opening doors and windows. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
  • Always place portable generators downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.
  • If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using the portable generator, you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention. Very high levels of CO can rapidly cause victims to lose consciousness before they can rescue themselves. Do not attempt to shut off the generator before moving to fresh air. Entering an enclosed space where a generator is or has been running may put you at greater risk of CO poisoning.
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