Safety and OSHA News

1 worker killed, 1 injured, following toxic fume exposure at small business

It doesn’t take huge quantities of chemicals in a facility to create a potentially hazardous situation, as a small business in Theresa, WI, found out.

The incident left one worker dead, and the president of the company was hospitalized.

Local authorities and OSHA are trying to determine what happened at Vivid Image, Inc.

A 911 call reported two men inside the business who appeared to be unconscious.

When emergency crews arrived, they found employee Roman Torres dead and company president, Thomas Persha, overcome by fumes.

It turns out the 911 call was made by Persha’s wife. She’d been trying to reach her husband at work. When there was no response to her phone calls, she went to the business and saw the two men lying motionless on the floor.

The two men were believed to have been mixing chemicals in a 20-by-30 foot interior room used for coating materials. Both of them were covered with a substance that had leaked out of a vat.

Vivid Image manufactures screens for TVs and video equipment.

An emergency management official said Vivid kept small quantities of chemicals on its premises in five gallon pails. The official called it “a small-time operation.”

Emergency responders were familiar with the business. A couple of years ago, a UPS driver found workers unresponsive at the business and called 911.

Besides suffering from toxic fumes inhalation, Persha also had extensive chemicals burns. He’s hospitalized in stable condition. He had to be decontaminated at the scene before being taken to a hospital.

About 100 rescue and hazardous material personnel were at the scene after the incident was reported.

Vivid had registered the chemicals it stored at its facility, including toluene, a screen coating paint and paraloid (a resin), all used in manufacturing screens.

The owner of Vivid authorized an environmental services company to decontaminate the facility.

This story also contains a reminder of why it’s important to tell your local fire and emergency responder agencies exactly what hazardous chemicals you have onsite.

Vivid had a pre-plan on file with local authorities. It was a key factor in the rescue response.

“Listed in that pre-plan is what’s in the building and what it’s used for,” Theresa Fire Chief Warren Stanke said. “These plans are available to our firefighters and rescue workers so they know what to expect when they walk into a place. Unfortunately, we find things that aren’t listed all the time — that’s why we have to go back and do our semi-annual inspections.”

How often do you communicate with local fire and rescue authorities about chemicals present in your facility? And if you are a firefighter or rescue crew member, let readers know how businesses can best prepare themselves and first responders for incidents like this one. You can leave comments in the box below.

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  1. This accident is very serious. Unfortunately, there was no evidence about what kind chemicals caused this accident. If it was uncovered, we could take good safety lesson from this accident.

    I hope the police can uncover the root cause so that we can take good lesson.

  2. These chemicals are intended for use with one another, it takes roughly 30 minutes to pass out from these chemicals. This was in no way an accident. This is a case of negligence from a company that only had two Employees, one that was a boss and the other that was a worker. Both men Mr. Persha and Mr. Torres were not wearing they’re masks. BOSS not wearing his mask and worker not made to wear his mask. Two previous times similar incidents occured to the same men where they almost lost theyre lives. A company that did not facilitate its employees with a proper ventilation system but was ok giving them a dangerous overall procedure. Furthermore I think its repulsive that the government laws do not require companies of 9 employees or less to report these incidents that had previously happened to OSHA! WOW big eye opener. Workers that work for small companies are not valued enough that maintaining a safe workplace is not required. Mr Torres leaves behind a wife, 3 sons, 3 bestfriends, 3 men that idolized him, 5 grandchildren and possibly 30-50 more years of memories for his family. He is not here because the system failed him.

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