Local News

Companies Cited in Carbon Monoxide Deaths

Posted April 20, 2007

— State regulators fined two companies Friday in connection with the February deaths of two workers from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Ethan Jones and Milton Johnson were found unconscious in a room inside the Kidde Aerospace and Defense building in Wilson on Feb. 17. Both men were employees of the Wheeler Electrical Co., which was hired to help finish an expansion project at Kidde, and they were installing electrical wires beneath a concrete floor.

A North Carolina Labor Department report said the workers sealed off the room and used an eight-horsepower saw to cut through the concrete floor. The report said the gas tank on the saw had the following label: "Danger. Lethal exhaust gases. Use only in well-ventilated areas. Do not use indoors."

Investigators said Jones and Johnson died after being exposed to carbon monoxide at nearly five times the permissible levels. At least 50 other workers in the building were sent to a hospital that day.

Wheeler Electrical was cited for five violations, including permitting unqualified employees to operate equipment, failure to maintain a written hazard communication program and not properly informing employees about potential exposure to carbon monoxide.

The citations carry a $10,500 fine.

The Department of Labor also cited Kidde for not providing a safe workplace by allowing its employees to be exposed to potentially deadly fumes. The company was fined $2,800.

Wheeler Electrical officials couldn't be reached for comment Friday. A spokesman for Kidde said the company is reviewing the citation and had no further comment.

Each company has 15 days to appeal.


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  • obs Apr 22, 2007

    CO detectors, my bad

  • obs Apr 22, 2007

    Sad, senseless.

    And the irony, Kidde manufactures CO2 detectors.

  • Panther Apr 22, 2007

    State regulators followed the letter of the law. They were most likely worried about there evaluations or catching heat from superiors more than common sense. A company hires someone to do a job and they overdose on stupid pills by utilizing a gas powered concrete saw in an enclosed place. Maybe the company is legally to blame according to state regulations but as someone mentioned before “at what point does the individual take responsibility for his/her own actions”! Remember you cannot legislate common sense.

  • refiman Apr 21, 2007

    could the employees operating the machine not read the clearly marked label which said to use in a well ventilated area.

  • OLD PIRATE Apr 21, 2007

    People who blame these two companies must think we live in a perfect world...when does the individual take responsibility for their own actions? Do we wonder why so many US companies are forced to go off shore..Yes its about the bottom line but folks the bottom line is what keeps this country afoat.

  • Viet Nam Era Vet Apr 21, 2007

    I suspect this is a case of the Wheeler workers not being able to read English!

  • AngelEyes Apr 21, 2007

    Employers still do not realize the importance of OSHA regulations and training. Most people think it's there to make their jobs more difficult, but they are there to make our jobs safer. I hope that one day, the businesses will open their eyes and pay closer attention to workplace safety and training.

  • Thomas Jefferson Apr 20, 2007

    The citations carry a $10,500 fine.

    Gosh, I hope that doesn't put them in any kind of financial bind!

  • deportillegalhispanics Apr 20, 2007

    This is a tragic accident that could have been avoided. This is what happens when companies use contractors that have no safety program in place and are only looking at the bottom dollar amount of the job and not what kind of company they are using. I am sure Wheeler Electric tried to run a respectable business and I am not saying that they cut any corners here, however, had these been more experienced electricians, with proper supervision, this could have been avoided. Companies