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Region 1 News Release:    BOS 99-223
Friday, December 17, 1999
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
PHONE: (617) 565-2074

OSHA CITES TWO EMPLOYERS FOR ALLEGED SERIOUS VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING FATAL CARBON DIOXIDE OVEREXPOSURE AT BOSTON RESTAURANT; $77,000 IN COMBINED PENALTIES PROPOSED

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited two Boston, Mass., employers - Dick's Last Resort of Boston, Inc., a restaurant located at 55 Huntington Ave., and BALCO, Inc., a refrigeration and HVAC repair company headquartered at 306 Northern Ave. - for alleged Serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the death in June of a BALCO repairman who was overcome by carbon dioxide while repairing a walk-in freezer at the restaurant. OSHA has proposed a total of $77,000 in penalties against the two employers.

According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, a restaurant employee discovered the repairman unconscious in the closed walk-in freezer on June 12 of this year. Nine 55-pound blocks of dry ice had been placed in the freezer to lower temperatures to help preserve food while the freezer was being repaired. As the blocks evaporated, dangerous levels of carbon dioxide built up in the closed freezer and overcame the repairman, who died the next day. The citations address each employer's alleged failure to adequately protect its own employees against excess levels of carbon dioxide.

"The inspection found that both companies allowed their employees to enter an atmosphere that posed an immediate danger to life and health due to excess carbon dioxide levels inside the freezer and that they allowed the workers to do so without appropriate respiratory protection, without adequate training to recognize the hazard posed by the dry ice and carbon dioxide and without stationing an employee outside the freezer to monitor and provide assistance to the worker inside," said Gordon. "In addition, the restaurant was also cited for not posting a danger tag on the freezer, lack of a hazard communication program, and failing to address how outside contractor employees would be informed of hazardous materials and conditions and appropriate safeguards."

Gordon noted that feasible methods of addressing these types of hazards can include mechanical ventilation of the work space, the use of respiratory protection by employees, continuous atmospheric monitoring of the work area and continuous visual, voice or signal monitoring of employees in the work space.

"A case such as this shows in the strongest terms why safety standards are important and why it is necessary that they be followed," she said.

Specifically, the citations and proposed penalties encompass the following:

  • Dick's Last Resort of Boston, Inc., faces $49,000 in proposed penalties for seven alleged Serious violations for:

- failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that an employee who entered the freezer was exposed to carbon dioxide gas in excess of the immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) concentration of 40,000 ppm;

- failure to supply the employee with an appropriate respirator;

- failure to ensure that a second employee was stationed outside the freezer whenever an employee entered it, in order to monitor, provide assistance and maintain communication with the first employee;

- no danger tag was posted on the freezer;

- lack of a written hazard communication program;

- failure to address how outside contractor employees would be informed of onsite hazardous materials and conditions and necessary precautionary measures;

- employees were not trained on how to recognize and protect themselves from carbon dioxide hazards.

  • BALCO, Inc., faces $28,000 in proposed penalties for four alleged Serious violations for:

- failure to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that an employee who entered the freezer was overexposed to carbon dioxide gas in excess of the immediately dangerous to life and health concentration of 40,000 ppm;

- failure to supply the employee with an appropriate respirator;

- failure to ensure that a second employee was stationed outside the freezer whenever an employee entered it, in order to monitor, provide assistance and maintain communication with the first employee;

- employees were not trained to recognize and protect themselves against the hazards of carbon dioxide gas and vapor.

A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Each company has 15 working days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Gordon urged eastern Massachusetts employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Braintree or Methuen and added that OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline --1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742)-- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.


The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


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