Two common cleaning solutions – both safe when used individually – created a toxic cloud of fumes when unknowingly combined by an employee, which claimed the life of the general manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Burlington, Massachusetts and injured about a dozen others. In cases such as this, where you may have been wrongfully injured or a loved one wrongfully killed, attorneys from Altman & Altman LLP in Cambridge can help if you wish to pursue legal action.
How did this tragedy occur?
This sad incident, which occurred on Nov. 7, is a reminder that even otherwise relatively safe household chemicals can become deadly without proper knowledge or care in their use. The worker who cleaned the floors used a common solution called Super 8, which is a bleach-based cleaner that contains sodium hypochlorite. What the employee didn’t know is that another separate employee had spilled an acid-based cleaner called Scale Kleen on the same floor a little while earlier.
The two chemicals combined and created a substance (chlorine gas) that “turned green and started to bubble,” according to what Burlington Fire Chief Michael Patterson told the media following the incident. This substance produced a gas that caused the worker to suffer a burning sensation in their eyes and difficulty breathing.
It was then that the general manager, now identified as 32-year-old Ryan Baldera, attempted to use a floor squeegee to clean up the toxic mixture, but was quickly overtaken by the fumes and later died at a hospital. A GoFundMe page set up to help his family has since raised over $125,000 as the family has not wished to pursue any legal action against anyone for the incident at this time.
To put the science simply, mixing anything with a bleach-based product is a bad idea, and can often result in the creation of deadly chlorine gas – which is a gas so potently deadly that it was often utilized in World War 1 and later banned by the Geneva Protocol for being horrendously inhumane, but has still been utilized by modern dictators to purge large numbers of political and ethnic enemies.
Possible legal ramifications
The family of the killed general manager may still wish to pursue a wrongful death claim, although it would take some investigating to figure out who may be at fault for the death. It could be the fault of the employee who spilled the Scale Kleen, or the employee who then used the Super 8 cleaner, or it could be the fault of Buffalo Wild Wings for failing to adequately train employees in how these two readily available cleaners could potentially cause a fatal reaction if they were ever mixed.
The incident is still under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as law enforcement officials, so it may come to pass that other factors contributed to the young man’s death. What is known for sure is that the workers who were tasked with cleaning the floors on the day of the incident were either unaware of the reaction caused by mixing bleach and acid, or they failed to properly communicate with one another about the chemical spill that had occurred prior to the regular use of the Super 8 cleaner.
Managers of restaurants are supposed to go through adequate ServSafe training in Massachusetts, which includes a portion on handling cleaning chemicals. If this training were not offered or not adequately carried out, the family of the victim and those who were injured as a result may have grounds for legal action. Continue reading