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California worker overwhelmed by argon gas in factory accident

Confined spaces can create safety hazards in many workplace environments and pose severe threats to workers if they are not managed according to prescribed safety regulations. The California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited the owners of an industrial company in Garden Grove for safety violations after completion of an investigation. The factory accident occurred in March and involved workers being endangered in a confined space.

The company specializes in precision casting in which an inert gas called argon is used in the casting process. Argon is much heavier than air, and it is odorless and colorless. For this reason, it is vital to provide exposed workers with respiratory equipment to protect them -- even when they are unaware of the presence of the dangerous gas.

Cal/OSHA reported that an untrained employee was sent into a confined space where he was overwhelmed by the inert gas. When a co-worker went to look for him, he suffered the same fate. A third employee discovered the two unconscious workers and used a fan to fill the space with fresh, safe air to breathe. The second worker was less severely affected, and he was released after treatment. However, the first worker who was exposed for the longest period had to be hospitalized for four days.

As with any industrial accidents, this victim of the factory accident may file benefits claims with the California workers' compensation insurance system. Benefits will cover the expenses related to hospitalization and medical treatment. Lost income typically also forms part of the financial package, and it is based on the average weekly wage level of the injured worker.

Source: mynewsla.com, "Gas danger fells metal workers, state fines Garden Grove firm", Stephanie Michaud, Aug. 23, 2016

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