Having a window and access to fresh air at work is not just a desirable trait of an office location; it can be the difference between a safe work environment and a dangerous one.
Proper ventilation is crucial in any workplace, but people often fail to recognize just how important it is until something goes very wrong. This was the case recently when a nitrogen leak resulted in the death of six workers and injuries to 11 more.
The recent accident occurred at a poultry processing plant. As is common in these types of plants, the company uses liquid nitrogen for refrigeration. Under normal circumstances, liquid nitrogen is not dangerous.
However, liquid nitrogen can vaporize and expand. If there is a large amount of it, the oxygen levels in a space can drop significantly, putting people at risk of asphyxiation. This situation can occur when there is a leak.
Nitrogen does not have a color or smell that can alert people to a leak, which is why workplaces that use liquid nitrogen should have proper ventilation as well as monitoring systems in place. These measures are simple and can be highly effective at preventing tragic accidents.
High cost of deficient ventilation
When a workplace does not have adequate ventilation in confined or congested spaces, workers can be at risk. They could suffer the following injuries:
- Loss of oxygen
- Exposure to airborne toxins
- Elevated temperatures
- Burns from explosions
- Respiratory issues
- General discomfort
- Loss of concentration
These conditions can result in acute or chronic injuries. In the worst cases, poor ventilation is fatal for employees.
Whether there is nitrogen, smoke or other airborne contaminants in the workplace, employers across Maryland must install and maintain adequate, effective ventilation. This should be in addition to air quality monitoring systems.
Employers who fail to take these precautions expose workers to preventable threats resulting in a workplace accident or illness.