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    CO2 Exposure Limits – Is Your Workplace and Draft Beer System Compliant?

    Brewers and bar owners know there are many unique challenges when it comes to CO2 inside the brewery and in the pubs. While carbon dioxide is a necessary component in the brewing process (and also a byproduct of the process too) and to properly dispense draft beer, CO2 can also create life or death situations for those working in the breweries and taprooms.  

    Exposure to high concentrations of CO2 gas can be extremely dangerous for employees. This is why understanding the CO2 exposure limits could not be more critical. Every brewer utilizes a nearly identical process to turn sugar into alcohol, and that process creates a massive amount of CO2. Additionally, taprooms with draft beer systems are also at risk because of the CO2 used to push draft beer from the keg to the faucet. Every brewery and taproom owner should be aware of the risks and how to protect their employees. For brewers, specific work activities that involve cleaning fermentation tanks, working in cellar areas, and around packaging equipment are all potentially dangerous areas for CO2 exposure. And in taprooms, the walk-in keg coolers are the most dangerous area as the cooler creates a confined space that can trap leaking CO2 and rapidly create dangerous concentrations. Walk-in coolers are considered confined spaces by OSHA standards.

    Carbon dioxide leaks are common and can be deadly. It may seem that carbon dioxide is harmless—it’s in the atmosphere around us, and you haven’t noticed it, right? But this gas, in elevated concentrations, can be just as hazardous as other gases. Handling CO2, especially in commercial environments, means you need to pay attention to your and others' safety. Doing so is your key to protecting yourself from liability and avoiding accidents or, worse, fatality.

    In addition, carbon dioxide gas lines run throughout the brewery, restaurants, and taprooms to get CO2 to the correct locations, creating potential hazards. While CO2 tanks or cylinder leaks can be rare, supply tubing, manifolds, carbonators, regulators, fittings, and more can be cut, damaged or incorrectly operated.

    Just because you can’t see, smell or taste carbon dioxide – does not mean it is not present and potentially deadly.

    To ensure the safety of brewers, bartenders, and other staff, it is important to educate employees on the properties of carbon dioxide, implement adequate safety measures, and conduct proper training programs to handle and manage carbon dioxide effectively. These measures can help minimize the risks associated with carbon dioxide exposure and limit a facility's liability.


    Exposure to high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas can be extremely dangerous. Normal indoor CO2 concentrations tend to be around 400-800ppm (parts-per-million), whereas, in the case of CO2 off-gassing or a CO2 system leak, concentrations can quickly reach 50,000ppm (5% CO2 by volume). This is above the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) evacuation threshold of 30,000ppm or 3% CO2 by volume.


    Exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) can lead to several symptoms, which can vary depending on the concentration and duration of exposure. Here are some common symptoms of CO2 overexposure:

    1. Difficulty breathing: High levels of CO2 can make it harder to breathe. You may experience shortness of breath or a feeling of suffocation.
    2. Acidic Taste in the Mouth and Throat: The combination of CO2 and saliva can create carbonic acid, creating an acrid/acidic taste in the mouth.
    3. Headaches: Headaches are a common symptom of CO2 overexposure. They can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by dizziness or lightheadedness.
    4. Dizziness and confusion: Elevated CO2 levels can cause dizziness, a sensation of spinning, or unsteadiness. In some cases, it may lead to confusion, difficulty concentrating, or impaired judgment.
    5. Increased heart rate: CO2 overexposure can cause an increase in heart rate or palpitations. You may feel your heart pounding or racing.
    6. Flushing or redness: Some individuals may experience flushing or reddening of the skin, particularly in the face and neck.
    7. Sweating: Excessive perspiration or sweating can occur as a response to CO2 exposure.
    8. Chest pain: In rare cases, high concentrations of CO2 can lead to chest pain or tightness in the chest.

    It is important to note that prolonged or extreme exposure to high levels of CO2 can have more severe health effects, including loss of consciousness, seizures, or even death. If you suspect CO2 overexposure or experience any of these symptoms in an environment where CO2 may be present, it is crucial to seek fresh air immediately and, if necessary, seek medical attention.


    Currently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set requirements that limit the amount of CO2 exposure that workers are allowed to come into contact with. For the wine and draft beer industry, particularly bars and restaurants, those that use CO2 and nitrogen for dispensing draft beer or other beverages should adhere to these limits.  

    OSHA states for an eight-hour period; the limit is 5,000 ppm Time Weighted Average and 30,000 ppm for a ten-minute period. You can reduce CO2 injury by installing a CO2 monitor, like the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm, that meets these standards.

    Overall, restaurant owners, facility managers, and workers need to be more aware of the health hazards when it comes to CO2 exposure limits in order to keep themselves and their business safe when working in and around these hazardous gases. By understanding the below standards, regulations, and guidelines – you can take better steps to precaution and protection.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) CAS No. 124-38-9
    The OSHA recommends the long-term exposure limit of 5000 ppm (8-hour) and short-term exposure limit of 30,000 ppm (15-minute period).

    National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) 2017 Part 1 Sup 3.4:
    High pressure CO2 cylinders and low-pressure bulk tanks used by restaurants and breweries fall under the purview of the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. These cylinders and tanks supply CO2 to their soft drink and draft beer systems. You can read more about the here -  National Board Inspection Code (NBIC).

    Supplement 3.4 of the NBIC liquid CO2 storage vessel guidelines states that continuous gas detection devices must be provided. Rooms or areas where CO2 storage vessels are located indoors or in enclosed areas need to be provided with proper gas detection monitoring systems for general area monitoring that can detect and notify building occupants of a CO2 gas release. Alarms will need to be designed to activate a low-level pre-alarm at 1.5% concentration of CO2 and a full high alarm at 3% concentration of CO2 (which is the OSHA & ACGIH 15 minute and NIOSH 10-minute Short Term Exposure Limit for CO2.) These systems are not designed for employee personal exposure monitoring.  Gas detection systems shall be installed and tested in accordance with manufacturers’ installation instructions and the following requirements.

    1. Activation of the gas detection system shall activate an audible alarm within the room or area in which the carbon dioxide storage vessel is located.

    2. Audible alarms shall also be placed at the entrance(s) to the room or area where the carbon dioxide storage vessel and/ or fill box are located to notify anyone who might try to enter the area of a potential problem.

    National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 55, Compressed Gases and Cryogenic Fluids Code
    The next organization to include regulations around stored CO2, CO2 safety, and safety monitoring is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The last update to the NFPA 55 was released in 2020.

    • Both NFPA 1 & 55 reference the need for gas detection wherever a known gas is stored. Both sections provide some specifics that should be reviewed with your local jurisdictional authority.

    • Updates are in place to NFPA 1 in the 2023 edition but only for cannabis facilities. Other organizations are preparing requested updates to NFPA 55 to bring the code more into alignment with other detection and alarm systems shall be capable of detecting and notifying at or in excess of permissible exposure limits (PEL) and short-term exposure limits (STEL).

    The International Fire Code Section 5307 (IFC)
    The IFC code requires owners to install a gas detection system or CO2 sensors within 12 inches of the floor area where CO2 is expected to accumulate. The CO2 alarm system should activate an audible and visible supervisory alarm at a concentration of 5,000 ppm and an audible and visible alarm at a concentration of 30,000 ppm. Further, a CO2 safety monitor must be used, or increased ventilation is required whenever 100 lbs. or more of CO2 is stored.

    CO2 Permissible Limits – How to Comply?

    Being aware of the potential hazards of carbon dioxide gas and the specific hazardous areas in the brewery, beverage, or restaurant is the first step. And having the proper gas detection devices to monitor and measure the CO2 properly is the most important opportunity to save lives.

    When it comes to compliance, the fire department is the most adamant about enforcing CO2 regulations and guidelines, being prone to CO2 gas leak hazards. Firefighters safeguard themselves with carbon dioxide detectors. This is hardly the case with businesses due to a lack of awareness.

    If you are one of the many who take this for granted, you are jeopardizing your business and your employees' lives. Make sure to comply with the set standards and regulations as soon as possible to avoid harm. “Not knowing about the requirement does not provide you a “free pass” on compliance. You can start by surveying the work area and assessing how many CO2 sensors you need and where to install them. It is important to check the set exposure limits in your local regulation. Next, install one of our CO2 Safety Monitors. Each monitor is compliant with CO2 exposure limits all over the world.

    CO2 METER safety ALARMS

    Our line of CO2 Safety Monitors and Alarms will keep your brewery, bar, or restaurant employees protected with audible and visual alarm notifications. Train your staff on what to do if an alarm sounds due to a gas leak. They are on the frontline when such things occur, so they must be protected. Contact your Micro-Matic representative to obtain Standard Operating Procedures to train your staff about what to do should a CO2 alarm goes off.

    Personal CO2 Monitors

    Providing a personal Carbon Dioxide detection device, such as the CO2 Personal Safety Monitor, does not replace the codes and regulations in place for a sophisticated alarm system but could save a life in the absence of one. The clip-on device is equipped with real-time detection and alerts (audio, vibration, and visual), which will alert the wearer when there is a gas leak. Further, these monitors are designed for employees who work in enclosed areas where CO2 buildup may cause personal harm. The CO2Meter Personal 5% CO2 Safety Monitor also features a “man-down-alarm” that is triggered when an employee fall occurs.


    CO2 exposure limits are a serious matter. The benefits of acting to keep the work environment secure for others are priceless and lifesaving. As a business owner, providing a carbon dioxide alarm system can not only save a life but prevent a loss of money and other possible headaches when you become liable for a CO2-related injury.

    Micro-Matic can help you make your establishment CO2 standards compliant. We have been helping breweries since 1953, providing state-of-the-art technology for your business. Our products are guaranteed to make the work area a safe place for your employees. Customers can feel safe wandering around the facility knowing that your establishment has a quality CO2 Safety Monitor/Alarm system set up.

    We will provide you with the best Carbon Dioxide Safety Monitor/Alarm solutions depending on your business’ needs.

    Contact us today for more information about these devices or visit our store.

    Raise a Glass to Draft Beer Sales!

    For over 60 years, Micro Matic has been recognized as one of the world’s leading suppliers of draft beer equipment. Specializing in keg-to-glass technology, we offer a total solution for meeting your draft beer equipment needs. Our dedication to customer service is supported by four regional sales and distribution centers, the Micro Matic Dispense Institute for training and education, and a Certified Installer Network for draft beer installations. Want to speak with a “perfect pour” expert? Contact Micro Matic today.