Carbon Monoxide dangers of using portable generators

The purpose of this Safety Alert is to remind workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) of the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure when using portable generators.


Two tradesmen were hospitalised due to high levels of carbon monoxide exposure whilst refurbishing a Darwin office building. Power to the building had been cut to allow electrical work to commence and a generator was setup in the buildings stairwell to power lights for the tradesmen.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas emitted during the use of petrol, gas and, to a lesser extent, diesel powered motors. Carbon monoxide is colourless, tasteless and odourless and exposure at high levels can lead to death.

Contributing factors

  • The generator was set up and operated in an enclosed space (the stairwell).

Action required

  • Before using a portable generator, workers and PCBU’s should read and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions
  • Portable generators should never be operated indoors or in enclosed, or semi enclosed areas, even if ventilated
  • Portable generators should be operated outdoors and away from open windows, doors or vents that could allow the carbon monoxide to seep indoors
  • Workers who feel sick, dizzy, or weak while working near a generator, should get to fresh air right away
  • As an additional control measure, consider using a portable battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm.

Further information

Guidance publications


This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.