Wednesday, August 08, 2001

OSHA studying Kenwood mall fumes

Last of 25 victims released from hospital

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP — Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials are investigating the buildup of carbon monoxide in the Kenwood Towne Centre that sent 25 people to hospitals.

        Eight patients, including three originally listed in critical condition, were released Tuesday morning after spending the night in a Dayton-area hospital. They were treated with a special oxygen device at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton and were kept overnight for observation at Kettering Memorial Hospital.

        “After we got them back here at approxmately 8 p.m. we admitted them for 24-hour observation,” said Kettering Memorial Hospital spokesperson Kevin Lavoie. “They were in good condition really as of 9:30 last night.”

        The other 17 patients were treated at area hospitals Monday and released.

        Preliminary investigation indicates the fumes came from a concrete-cutting saw that was being used in the construction of a new Gap location in the mall, said William Murphy, area director for the Cincinnati OSHA office.

        Workers were using the saw to cut concrete in preparation for the installation of plumbing equipment. Employees of Gil Ruhle Mechanical Inc. in Colerain Township were operating the saw, Mr. Murphy said.

        Company officials, citing the ongoing investigation, said they could not comment.

        An OSHA report could be issued in about two weeks. It is not known what, if any, OSHA violations may be found. “We don't have a specific requirement for an employer to monitor for exposure to carbon monoxide,” Mr. Murphy said. “There is a standard with respect to personal-protection equipment. In this case personal-protection equipment could have protected these workers from exposure to carbon monoxide.”

        OSHA officials don't believe any equipment, such as a respirator, was being used.

        Employers should also assess work sites for hazards and take steps to protect workers, officials said.

        “If they assessed this they should have recognized they would build up these carbon monoxide gases and they should have taken steps to correct that,” Mr. Murphy said. “It should have never gotten to the point where they would have needed a respirator.”


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