Oxygen Deficient Atmosphere

Last Updated: January 7, 2019

Definition - What does Oxygen Deficient Atmosphere mean?

An oxygen deficient atmosphere is an environment that is depleted below the level of 20.9% oxygen volume. An environment can become oxygen deficient through the presence of other gases such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. These gases can be released into the atmosphere as a result of leaking pipes, rust, bacteria, poor ventilation, and confined spaces, causing a deficit of oxygen that is hazardous to employees. Employees with less than optimal lung function (asthma, COPD, or other breathing complications) may feel the negative effects of low oxygen content earlier than other employees.

WorkplaceTesting explains Oxygen Deficient Atmosphere

An oxygen deficient atmosphere in the workplace is a risk to the health and safety of workers. Where the oxygen volume of the atmosphere falls from 19% down to approximately 8%, a worker will experience decreased physical abilities, difficulty breathing, impaired co-ordination and perception, feeling light-headed and loss of consciousness. At less than 8% oxygen volume, a worker can die within approximately 8 minutes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulate the standards and procedures required in the workplace to prevent workers asphyxiating as a result of working in an oxygen deficient environment. These include the installation of safety systems in the workplace and the wearing of protective gear.

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