A Buffalo Wild Wings manager died when he was sickened by a toxic mix of chemicals in the restaurant. Two everyday chemicals combined to emit toxic fumes that killed the employee and sickened 12 others in the store. The manager was cleaning the floor at the time of the incident.
The employee was using a bleach-based solution to clean the floor which contained sodium hypochlorite. This chemical can become toxic when it mixes with acid. The employee did not know that acid had spilled onto the floor earlier and was still there when he applied the bleach to the floor. Once the two chemicals mixed, they turned green and started to bubble. This is when they began to emit toxic fumes.
The worker was then sickened and left the area. He developed burning eyes and had difficulty breathing. His manager then came to try to clean the area with the squeegee. The manager was sickened and taken to a hospital where he died from chemical inhalation. A HAZMAT team arrived on the scene and cleaned up the site. Several patrons of the restaurant were taken to the hospital with injuries. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration was contacted about the incident.
Chemicals in the workplace can sicken workers in one of two ways. The first is through contact with the skin and the second is through inhalation, which is what killed this particular employee. While a worker around the world dies every 30 seconds from chemical exposure, protections in the U.S. are generally better, resulting in fewer workplace deaths. Nonetheless, there are numerous incidents each year where OSHA cites employers for failure to protect workers from fumes or for dangerously exposing their workers to toxic chemicals. In the U.S., the number of chemical exposure deaths has been shrinking in recent years.
From a liability perspective, the chemicals both have clear warnings on the labels about mixing the two products. However, the two chemicals were not intentionally combined and the employee cleaned the floor without knowledge that there was acid on the floor. Here, the family of the perished employee can file a worker’s compensation claim but would not be able to sue Buffalo Wild Wings. However, if a third party was negligent, the family could file a lawsuit against that person. Another possibility is a lawsuit against the chemical manufacturer, but it is generally well known that these two chemicals mixed together can cause serious injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates to discuss your potential case. The firm can guide you through the worker’s compensation process should you be eligible.