- February 18, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
We’ve often discussed on this blog how dangerous construction sites can be, and the responsibility that construction companies have to keep their workers and bystanders safe.
We’ve also talked about property owners’ duties to make sure that any spaces open to employees or guests are free of unnecessary hazards.
A construction company’s role in safety doesn’t necessarily end when a property opens for business, however. Contractors that develop, repair, and upgrade properties are responsible for making sure their work is up to code and safe for future occupants. Property owners count on them to do this and sometimes have no way of verifying their work.
When wires spark, carbon monoxide builds up, or floors fall out from under people due to shoddy construction work, the contractor can be held liable. This may be true even when problems manifest years after the job was declared “done.”
Pilgrim’s Pride’s Latest Ammonia Leak Started with a Burst Pipe
Last January, the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Canton experienced a sudden ammonia leak. Emergency crews examined the 45 workers who evacuated the plant and sent three to the hospital, two of them with serious injuries. The nearby 575 interstate also had to be cleared due to the fumes.
Ammonia is commonly used in industrial refrigeration because it’s economical, efficient, and relatively safe. Ammonia fumes are painful to breathe, which is, counter-intuitively, part of what makes ammonia safer than other refrigerants. There’s virtually no danger of inhaling a lethal dose of ammonia without first noticing that something is wrong. However, concentrated or extended exposure to ammonia is still dangerous, and apparently the Canton plant’s evacuation process was not fast enough to protect the workers from harm entirely.
Ammonia is also flammable. Thankfully, the fumes did not ignite this time, but another Pilgrim’s Pride plant wasn’t so lucky when they sprang a similar leak a few years back. In short, ammonia leaks are not to be taken lightly.
It’s possible that Pilgrim’s Pride has been negligent in their systems maintenance, leading to leaks like these. It’s also possible, however, that the contractors that installed their ammonia systems made mistakes or cut corners. In that case, the construction contractors would bear partial or sole liability for these injuries.
Survivors of Workplace Accidents Should Consider All Possible Negligent Parties
Looking at workplace accidents from all angles is so important because employers are protected by worker’s comp law.
Worker’s comp allows injured workers to collect a settlement quickly to help with their medical bills, without having to prove who was at fault for their injuries. The downside of this arrangement is that employees are generally barred from filing personal injury suits against their employers, unless the employer denies their worker’s comp claim.
Unlike a personal injury suit, a worker’s comp settlement does not take pain and suffering into account. At best, it will cover immediate medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. The employee will still ultimately end up taking a loss.
Worker’s comp law does not block workplace accident survivors from suing companies other than their own employers, however. In cases where another entity contributed to the accident, such as a contractor that performed faulty construction work, injured workers can often sue for full compensation. This is true even if the worker has already collected worker’s comp.
If you were injured in the Pilgrim’s Pride ammonia leak, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more.