Articles Posted in Work Related Burn Injuries

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In late May, a man in Aurora, CO filed a lawsuit against Arby’s restaurants after he said he suffered severe burns from steam or very hot water that sprayed from a urinal in the men’s room at a local restaurant. The incident allegedly happened two years ago at the Arby’s in Monument, CO, but the man filed the lawsuit just recently.

Kenneth Dejoie claims his genitals suffered severe burns while he was using a urinal inside the Arby’s men’s room. The five-page lawsuit was filed in El Paso County District Court, and states that Dejoie was “using the urinal in the men’s restroom when the urinal caused a jet of steam to shoot forth and burn his genitals.”

Dejoie claims that he reported the incident to an employee who said, “we have that bathroom problem again” and that “this happens when the sink in the kitchen is running.”

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In early June, a federal jury in St. Louis awarded $180 million to three men who suffered blast injuries and severe burns while working in a Chester, IL grain bin that exploded in 2010.

One of the men, John Jentz of St. Peter, MN clearly remembers the explosion at the ConAgra grain bin: “I heard the bang. I heard the rushing of the air, and the fireball,” he said. Jentz’s co-worker, Robert Schmidt, was riding down a single-lift hoist when the explosion occurred. “It was probably the third boom when I realized that an explosion was happening, and I just froze–I knelt down and started praying,” Schmidt said. “I thought, ‘This is it, I am going to die.'”

Chicago attorney Robert Clifford, who represented Jentz and Schmidt, said there had been signs of trouble in the grain bin before the explosion, such as temperature readings of up to 400 degrees. Clifford asserted that grain bin operators ignored safety problems because they were trying to maximize use of the product. “It was either because they didn’t want to close down the facility, or they were trying to save the product that they were trying to extract so that they could resell it,” he said.

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In the past several years, small fires were actually common at Hoeganaes Corporation’s metal powder plant outside Nashville. By early 2011, some workers had become good at beating down flames with gloved hands or a fire extinguisher.

The company’s own product fueled the fires: Scrap metal comes into the plant and is melted, atomized and dried into a fine iron powder that is sold to makers of car parts. But often, powder leaked from equipment and settled on ledges and rafters. One worker said he could hear the popping sound of dust sparking when it touched live electricity.

In the early morning of January 31, 2011, a worker was called to check out a malfunctioning bucket elevator that moves dust through the plant. Near his feet, electrical wires lay exposed. When the machine restarted, the jolt knocked dust into the air. A spark — likely from the exposed wires — turned the dust cloud into a ball of flame that engulfed the worker. He suffered severe burns over 95 percent of his body, and lived just two more days at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s burn unit before dying.

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In Waldorf, Maryland last week, local doctors came to the aid of a man who accidentally set himself on fire while trying to light a homemade barbecue pit.

The man was treated for first degree burns and second degree burns across nearly 50 percent of his body. Authorities say the man was burned when vapors from the flammable liquid he had poured over the wood inside a 270-gallon barrel ignited, and caused a flash fire.

Luckily, the man was able to drive himself to a local hospital, but he was later transferred to the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center. However, if there had been other people around him when the fire took place, they could have suffered severe burns to their skin or lungs as well. In such a case, it is likely that the man would have faced a liability lawsuit due to negligence in creating a grill from a barrel that is not intended for such use.

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In eastern Pennsylvania last week, a machine battery at a production plant overheated and ruptured, and then began leaking acid onto other batteries that were nearby. This caused the other batteries to melt and release poisonous smoke that filled the entire building.

Although all employees evacuated safely, a number of them later in that week experienced breathing problems, coughing, headaches and other illness. Doctors who treated these employees said that in most cases, the lungs and throat are mildly inflamed from the smoke inhalation (the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in it, both of which are potentially deadly in humans). The doctors’ suggested remedy: Drink lots of water and take Advil or another ibuprofen product to reduce the inflammation in the body. It was fortunate that no employees touched the leaking batteries, as it is very easy to suffer third degree burns from battery acid.

Although there will probably not be a lawsuit filed against the company for legal liability due to negligence–batteries do sometimes overheat and leak–this story is a good reminder for anyone who work in an industrial facility: make sure the facility has working smoke detectors, and also know where the emergency exits are so you can escape quickly even if visibility is bad due to a smoke condition. Also, be sure to get your face down to the floor in order to avoid smoke inhalation–when there is smoke or fire, the cleanest air to breathe is down at floor level.

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In Arlington Heights, Illinois on May 22, one person was killed and ten injured in an explosion at an industrial complex in this suburban Chicago town.

Emergency officials there responded to reports of an explosion inside a manufacturer called Arens Controls, which produces power management systems for commercial vehicles (batteries, etc.). A woman who lives two blocks from the facility told reporters that she heard a large explosion at around 8:30 a.m. An Arlington Heights Fire Department official said the explosion involved a machine inside the facility. One person was pronounced dead shortly after the blast, while at least ten people were taken to Northwest Community Hospital, some of them requiring treatment for severe burns.

Signs outside the affected building indicated that Motorola, Honeywell and a Home Depot training college are also housed there. There was no word at the time as to whether any employees of these firms were injured in the explosion. It is also unclear at this time if there is any legal liability due to negligence on the part of the Arens Controls or any of its employees for the explosion.

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In Vestavia Hills, Alabama this week, a six-year-old girl suffered second degree burns and third degree burns when she came in contact with an electrical transformer that powered the lighting at a large athletic complex.

The girl was at the athletic complex to watch her older brother play soccer. But she wandered away from the field and towards a wooden fence that separated the spectator areas from the electrical transformer. But because there were two planks missing from the wooden fence, the girl was able to wiggle through the fence and got too close to the transformer. After suffering a severe electrical shock, the girl was treated by a doctor who happened to be at the complex. She was then flown by Life Saver helicopter to Children’s of Alabama Hospital. The girl was listed in fair condition a day after the incident.

The Vestavia Hills Mayor acknowledged that there were planks missing from the fence. The incident is under investigation, and it is possible that the family of girl could file a lawsuit claiming that the injuries the girl suffered were a result of negligence on the part of the city, which oversees the operation of the athletic complex.

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In Coachella, CA this week, a driver suffered severe burns when propane tanks in the back of his pickup truck exploded while he waited with his family in a drive-through at a McDonald’s restaurant.

It was about 1:45 p.m. on a Saturday when the man heard a hissing noise coming from one of two tanks. When he stepped into the back of his pickup to check on the leaking tank, he created static electricity that ignited the leaking gas and caused a gas explosion in both tanks.

The blast had so much force that it caused the roof of the truck to buckle and the tailgate to blow off, striking a vehicle behind it. The fire engulfed the truck, scorched part of the drive-through, and damaged the roof of the restaurant

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In Pike Township, Ohio, last week, firefighters from dozens of departments needed six hours to get control of a massive fire at an oil company. The damage from the fire, smoke, and hazardous materials that leaked will require an extensive environmental cleanup in the area.

More than 50 agencies responded to the workplace fire. The blaze produced flames that shot 200 feet into the air, and black smoke could be seen several counties away. The clouds of smoke could even be seen on weather radar. The oil company supplies diesel fuel, heating oil, gasoline, racing fuel, bio-diesels and lubricants.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials at the scene determined that oil spilled into a tributary of Donnels Creek, which feeds into Mad River. Officials used vacuum equipment and other techniques to remove environmental contaminants. “We pushed hard to protect the environment,” said a local fire chief. “We should have things back to normal in a couple days.”

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Earlier this year, a man in Portage, Indiana, was placed into an induced coma after an industrial accident at the steel mill where he worked left him with third degree burns over 55 percent of his body.

The accident happened one evening at the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor plant, when a high-pressure steam hose ruptured from where it was connected to an oxygen furnace. Gabe Rocha, a salaried foreman who transferred from the firm’s Inland Steel plant to the Burns Harbor facility about six months ago, was checking pressure lines that are part of the cooling system when the hose ruptured.

At the time of the accident, workers were investigating an alert that a steam pressure line had stopped working properly. While Rocha was looking into the situation, the hose ruptured with such force that it threw him about 200 feet, dousing him with steam.