A husband/father lost his life while on the job.
On November 22, 2022, a hotel maintenance worker didn’t come home to his family after work. According to the Ann Arbor, Michigan Fire Department, the worker was found unresponsive the next day in the boiler room where he was confirmed dead. Authorities concluded that the cause of death was carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
How did this happen? What went wrong?
Fire fighters conducted testing, which revealed CO levels in the boiler room in excess of 500 parts per million (ppm), the maximum testable value by the fire company’s equipment. This is well above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates a safe threshold of 50 ppm over an 8-hour work period. The local gas company shut off the gas to the boiler while the building was ventilated. When they sampled the room, their CO detector revealed the boiler room had CO levels exceeding 1,000 ppm.
Upon investigation, it was discovered that the ventilation to the boiler room was blocked by a fallen sheet of steel on the roof.
Health & Safety (H&S) doesn’t just mean regulatory compliance. It’s prevention and protection—avoiding at all costs a tragedy such as this. We’ve all heard that safety rules are written in blood. I would say blood, bruises, pain, tears, and in times like this, grief. At EHS Support, we take pride in understanding regulatory compliance. But regulatory compliance is only the beginning. H&S rules, regulations, policies, and procedures are only as good and safe as the tools, training, practices, and guidance provided to meet them.
When we discuss auditing with our clients, we push for wall-to-wall and property-line-to-property line inspections. We look at the big picture as well as the little details. We engage personnel who know the daily activities and what they are up against. We examine their written documentation and how details are communicated and tracked across all levels of the company.
When we ask to see behind every door, venture out on the roof, access the basements, and investigate outbuildings, we are looking for all potential hazards, like this instance of a sheet of steel blocking ventilation to the boiler room—a hazard that took a man’s life.
Don’t turn a blind eye to potential hazards and unsafe actions. We can all do better in identifying such hazards, and we all need to ensure proper actions are taken to ensure they are remediated.
News of such an incident grips me. Take a moment and access OSHA’s Fatality Inspection Data of work-related fatalities site and read the names and ages of those who died on the job this year. I know I don’t know all the OSHA regulations, industry best practices, or potential hazards that are lurking around the corner, but I will keep studying and learning with the goal of keeping people safe, protecting our clients, and preventing a family from hearing devastating news and suffering beyond comprehension.
Remember, regulatory compliance is just the beginning; let’s protect our workers and prevent tragedies at all costs. While the bottom line is a major focal point, it doesn’t trump the value of life.