HazMat Management

CO leak kills NY seafood spot manager, sickens patrons

A carbon monoxide leak in the heating system at a New York seafood spot, killed the restaurant’s manager and hospitalized more than a dozen diners.

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February 27, 2014 by Hazmat Management

A carbon monoxide leak in the heating system at a New York seafood spot, killed the restaurant’s manager and hospitalized more than a dozen diners.

Restaurant manager Steven Nelson was 55.

Legal Sea Foods, a popular chain across seven states in the eastern U.S., was one of many commercial entities that operated without carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. States that mandate CO detectors only apply to homes. For businesses, detectors are only mandatory where customers sleep, such as hotels, nursing homes and universities.

Following the February 22, 2014 accident at Legal Sea Foods’ Long Island location, owner Roger Berkowitz announced that CO detectors will be added to all of his restaurant locations.

Apollo Safety Inc. President John Carvalho III says it doesn’t take a substantial CO leak to have an impact that can prove fatal.

“Complicating matters even more is that everyone reacts differently to carbon monoxide,” says Carvalho III. “Some people fall ill or experience in a fairly short amount of time. For others it can be longer. As was the case at the restaurant, it doesn’t take overnight exposure to carbon monoxide for it to be lethal,” he adds.

Apollo Safety, a Massachusetts-based company, specializes in safety products and services. Carvalho III recommends that any commercial or residential building using fossil fuel sources such as oil, propane, and natural gas be equipped with a CO detector in the basement or boiler room. He cites this as particularly necessary for heating systems that employ elbow-shaped pipes.

“Elbow pipes can be particularly dangerous when there’s a leak because the shape of the pipe will actually slow the flow of the carbon monoxide and create much greater exposure than a straight pipe,” says Carvalho III.

In terms of the types of systems commercial businesses should choose that can vary on the size of the building, the number of people in that building at a given time, etc.

“It’s conceivable that a smaller business could get by with a store-bought, battery-operated carbon monoxide detection system that you would have in your home,” says Carvalho III. “Yet when you consider the potential risks and the devastating impact one incident can have on a business—even with no fatalities—it just make sense to take that extra precaution for your customers and staff .”

Apollo Safety’s offerings include a wide variety of portable and stationary gas detection systems suitable for large universities, including name brands like Industrial Scientific, RAE Systems, RKI, and GMI. These systems are available for purchase or rental at weekly or monthly rates. Rental equipment is certified to NIST standards and is guaranteed for the entire rental period.