Local News

Companies Cited in Carbon Monoxide Deaths

Posted April 20, 2007 6:36 p.m. EDT

— 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.