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Worker who died in Atwater Village industrial accident was trying to aid colleagues

58934058 One worker died Friday morning after trying to help two unconscious colleagues overcome by ethanol fumes as they cleaned blood plasma from a container at an Atwater Village pharmaceutical company.

The two others were in grave condition at a hospital, and the identity of the deceased worker at Baxter Healthcare, 4501 W. Colorado Blvd., was not released, pending notification of next of kin, said Los Angeles Fire Chief Jaime Moore.

Moore said firefighters and paramedics arriving on the scene shortly before 4 a.m. found two men collapsed inside the container and a third outside, also unconscious. They recognized the threat from the fumes and donned protective clothing and breathing apparatuses, then rushed in to remove the men from the container.

“Were it not for the actions they took when they got on scene, all three would be dead,” Moore said.

The workers were using detergent to clean the container of blood plasma. They were overcome by ethanol, which was used as a separating agent for blood plasma, Moore said.

The worker outside the container had called 911 and went in to help his unconscious colleagues from the container, but was himself overcome by the fumes, Moore said.

-- Sam Quinones

Photo: KTLA

Comments () | Archives (49)

I love how everyone immediately jumps on the company. What if these people were properly trained and ignored the rules anyway. Everyday I see people ignoring rules there to protect the safety of themselves and others. How many people everyday drive talking on cell phones? Can we sue the government if they crash into us since they choose not to follow the rules?

Somebody made a mistake here. Whether it was the employees not following procedure, another employee doing something inadvertently, or simply a freak occurace it is tragic and those jumping to conclusions should spend your energy providing condolences to the families of these individuals. I am sure they do this same proceedure dozens of times a year if not more. Lets wait until the results come out before jumping to conclusions people.

That company better cover funeral costs, and around half a mil for pain and suffering to the family.

There are extensive rulles and regulations regarding confined spaces. This happened when the operator was not trainined properly or winged the training document somehow. We don't need additional regulations to make the matter more complicated. We need an indepth investigation to found out what caused the this accident. Was this an operator error, or lack of procedure or training. I bit it was an operator error.

If it is handled like the vast majority of fatalities investigated by CalOSHA, after 1-2 years of investigation and negotiation, there will be a burst of publicity as the firm is hit with a fine at or near the maximum permitted by law - which is typically very small, well under $100,000, certainly small in comparison to a civil court judgment.

The employers will immediately appeal the fine, and within one year - and with virtually no publicity - the fine will be reduced to a small fraction of what it was, or eliminated entirely.

Sometimes you take all the precautions and accidents still happen. There is always something that could be done better in the hindsight!

I am just disgusted with TV reporters using this tragic event to create pseudo facts in their selfish quest to attract more viewers without any regards to worker's families' sentiments. News reporters should be reporting not making up news!

I invite everybody to follow up this news and find out what percentage of the actual facts was reported.

My prayers go to the worker and his/her family who lost a life and wish the injured workers speedy recovery.

Cal OSHA is gonna have a field day with this one.

I worked for Baxter for 5 years and the top priority was safety, safety, safety and training, training, training. But with over a 1,000 people working there (it's like a little city), things will happen no matter what systems are in place. My prayers go out to the family.

One of my first jobs out of college was working for Baxter Hyland. One thing I know is Baxter has SOPs for EVERYTHING! Even how to park your car on their property! They are all very well written and easy to understand even by someone who has a 5th grade education which is important because that is the level education of employee they mostly hire now. I think who ever made that ethanol blend didnt follow the SOP on the required strength and over did it.
Obviosly they need to go over training again. Sad what happened but this could happen at any of the Boxster Hyland facilities in SoCal.

I've worked in a facility that has large tanks such as the one outlined in the article. Steve is correct, there are procedures that must be followed when performing confined space entry. Typically there are 3 people involved in any confined space entry: the one in the tank, the one on watch outside the tank, and the supervisor. The guy in the tank has SCBA gear in instances like this where solvents are involved and he's attached to a harness where he can be pulled out by the guy outside the tank if anything goes wrong. The guy outside the tank is supposed to be watching and monitoring with a VOC monitor the level of VOC's in the tank and the surrounding area to help ensure everyone's safety. Supervisor will supervise. Also prior to performing this type of activity there is a review and sign off by someone from Safety to ensure that proper protocol is followed.
A company of this size with it's resources would NOT compromise safety for profits, especially since it's a pharma company. Lack of safety protocol can ruin a pharma company in the eyes of the FDA.

This tragic accident does not surprise me at all. I used to work for Baxter and these types of shortcuts were the norm. There are wonderful people working at Baxter - but the senior management has one goal - $$$$$. Most Baxter employees think that CEO Bob Parkinson is asleep at the wheel and his direct reports are hiding much from him. Don't take my word for it - google Baxter or venture to cafepharma.com. Internationally, the company has even more problems. But, as with most pharma companies, the lobbyists have been very successful in making sure the regulators are kept at bay.

This is very sad. I hope Cal OSHA finds out what happened. I always drive by Baxter on my way home from work in Burbank and there is always that "rotten egg" smell whenever I drive by. I just hope whatever killed this man does not get out into the neighborhood.

I am a former Baxter Healthcare employee from Thousand Oaks I worked there for 6 years. The time I was working at this plant I was pushed, threatened and verbally assaulted by co-workers. Jeff Heaton Manager of Safety and Graham Brearly plant manager. Did nothing to protect me except harass me.

Come to find out later from the security at Baxter in Thousand Oaks that there have been many other employees before you that were attacked. And Baxter Healthcare did nothing.

I am so sad to see this day come were an employee has been killed along with two critically injured.

No was there for me.

Please if I can help these employees or any attorneys as to being a witness as to how pathetic the safety is at Baxter Healthcare please respond to this site.

why is my post not being posted?

I work across the street from Baxter and was told at around 4:30 a.m. that an accident had taken place, you immediately want to know what happend but today was not one of those kind of days. The words "one fatality" was used to describe what happened to at least one of the workers, boy that really struck home since I work in the engineering department and am exposed to hazards that can also lead to death. What in the world happend to their safety protocols? Obviously when in a confined space you need to follow the guidelines set forth for that can of environment, oxygen sensors, PPE, supervision! My prayers to those who are still suffering and then to the one who passed away for their family and friends. Take note all, never take anything for granted when dealing with work hazards, follow the regulations, procedures etc. Now comes the investigation to see how they can prevent this from happening again. Let's learn from this terrible event and have it not happen again.
Peace out!

I find it ridiculous how people are using a tragic accident as a chance to attack big business and California's rules and regulations on businesses. I personally know someone who works at the same plant and he says that they had a strict procedure for cleaning out the tanks after fractionation that exceeded OSHA standards. The cause of this accident was human error and a failure to follow procedure and had nothing to do with an unsafe work environment. Saying that this accident was 100% the companies fault is as stupid as blaming mcdonalds for the 3rd degree burns you got from spilling their coffee on yourself.

Confined spaces are always lethal. It's always recommended that at least a team of 2 people do the job, one monitors, with a sniffer in a well ventilated area. In a case like this one, the first thing you should do is get help, and pray for the person inside. Never attempt to rescue them yourself.
This should be training tip 101. Sorry for the loss.

This is a terrible awful way to die. My sons friend works at this company and the person who died was his friend. The comments about not following safety rules are rude and ignorant, when no investigation has been completed. You should keep your comments to yourself if you have nothing nice to say...something you usually learn in Kindergarten.

May he rest in peace a hero.

I worked in side those tanks ......I was a Manufacturing Tech 1 from 2001- 2004, I know exactly what happened. O2 (Air check) was missed or skipped and logged in afterward (major violation was common) to meet production demands..... Period! There are over 40 3000 liter tanks in there! Very cool job... dangerous but cool...

I worked at Baxter LA for many years and it took a lifetime to install a carbon monoxide detector in a room where LN2 was on for 16-20 hours a day. Thanks God no one died but there was an incident when some employees almost past out. Unfortunately a tragedy had to occur to get OSHA involved. I know for a fact that corrective actions were closed just to meet deadlines without taking care of the safety issue. And thru my own experience short cuts many time are taken by employees just because if you don't take them you don't fit in certain managers or supervisors team. Baxter was one of the greatest place to work. People used to take pride in their work but now the hiring process for management is very dissapointing. Ethics has gone down the drain and the number one thing is the quantity of product rather than the quality of product that goes out the door. Ironically some my comments were planned to go out to Westlake VP. For the families of the three gentlemen my deepest condolences, I am sure many of will include them in our prayers.

I would just like to wish the families of the victims, the company included, as this is surely a tragedy that should've been avoided. What I've read so far, as far as the commentary involving this incident, is that there is a lot of finger-pointing, and I believe that there is blame on all parties involved (The company, for not making sure that Permit-Required Confined Space Entry and Rescue rules and regulations were not being followed. And, the employees, for putting themselves in harms way by not following these same rules and regulations).

I am in the Hazardous Material field as a Confined Space Rescuer, as well as a Field Supervisor, and I can't stop wondering who the Entry Supervisor was that allowed this work to be conducted in this negligent manner. Shame on everyone involved in this tragic situation. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that it takes the death, and near death, of employees for the industry to open their eyes and see what 29 CFR, section 1910.146 and Title 8, section 5158 are designed to protect (The employees that are conducting the work, and the companies that have to deal with the liability of said employees).

In closing, I'd like to offer my condolences to the families of the victims, once again. And, thank everyone in the Haz-Mat field who are working along the lines set forth by the Federal and State regulations, no matter how costly and time-consuming they may be sometimes.

With sympathy for such a disgrace -- and tragedy... this deadly accident.

BTW, the correct terminolog­y for ethanol exposure is to "vapors" not 'fumes."

- Fumes generally come from hot processes like welding or soldering ~ from lead, copper, tin.
- Vapors come from a liquid, like gasoline vapors, chlorine vapors.

Common error.

Everyone at this plant was fully trained in ALL the safety requirements!!
For everyone affected by this; the family, the employees, the managers, my heart goes out to you. My deepest sympathy and condolences.
For those that make comments before knowing the details, it is unacceptable and harsh to assume who is at fault in the event of a death. I see this 'jumping to conclusions' all too often; even by those that are representing health and safety professions, as well as "experts" of industrial accidents. I certainly hope that you do not have to face such an awful event in your company.

I think they should be trained on the Emergency Contingency Plan, with good quality training not the one some companies use to put some one in Compliance.

To their families, My deepest condolences to their families!!!

Mini-Lesson on Confined Space that I was told a long time ago: "DON'T GO IN THERE."

Two rules that have been in place every place I have worked regarding Confined Space Entry:

1. Anyone going into a confined space for work must wear a Safety Harness with a line, so they can be pulled out if necessary. (It appears they did not do this.)

2. An observer must be outside the Confined Space must have emergency communication capabilities (which appears they did in this case with the 911 call); AND a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for emergency entry into the space.

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