Authorities have reported that at least 6 workers have died from a liquid nitrogen leak at the Foundation Food Group facility in Gainesville, Georgia. The leak yesterday also injured at least 12 more people, including a firefighter who responded to the scene. Additionally, 130 people were taken to a local church, Free Chapel, for medial evaluation. At the time of this writing, 3 of the survivors are in critical condition, 3 are in fair condition, and the remaining 5 do not require hospitalization. The identities of the victims have also not yet been released to the public.
Liquid nitrogen is extremely hazardous to breathe in. Large amounts can cause rapid and extensive respiratory damage, triggering dizziness, unconsciousness, suffocation, and death. It is believed that all of the victims of the leak have passed away or been injured due to liquid nitrogen inhalation, but exact details of their injuries are also currently unreleased.
A spokesperson from the Foundation Food Group announced that an investigation is underway to identify the cause of the fatal liquid nitrogen leak. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will join the food processing company in the investigation. It has been announced that there was no explosion that caused or was caused by the leak, so it could have been caused by a valve seal defect, pipe damage, or another subtle problem with the liquid nitrogen containment units.
Is Foundation Food Group Liable for the Workers’ Deaths?
There is no official word yet as to whether or not Foundation Food Group failed to protect its workers from the fatal liquid nitrogen accident due to workplace negligence. The investigation will need to be concluded to determine if the accident could have been prevented with better safety protocols or facility maintenance.
However, some have already raised suspicions and pointed fingers at the company because it has a history of OSHA violations. Records show that the company paid nearly $150,000 in OSHA fines related to numerous safety violations and regulatory concerns since 2015. There have also been at least two amputation accidents in the facility since 2017. Although the company’s recent past of OSHA violations does not guarantee that Thursday’s fatal liquid nitrogen accident was the result of workplace safety issues, it certainly calls for an in-depth investigation.
Can the Families of the Workers Sue?
For the time being, the injured workers and the families of those who lost their lives due to the Foundation Food Group liquid nitrogen leak in Gainesville can likely file for workers’ compensation. Whether the victims and their families can file personal injury and wrongful death claims is not immediately clear. Typically, workers’ compensation claims cannot be filed alongside civil injury claims unless the defending employer has committed an egregious workplace safety violation or some sort of criminal wrongdoing. Survivors and family members of those who lost their lives in the accident have been encouraged to speak with local workers’ compensation and wrongful death attorneys about their legal options.
Our attorneys from Hasty Pope, LLP Davies, LLP are long-time Gainesville locals who proudly stand up for the people in our communities. We have in-depth experience with industrial accident claims, like the many civil suits we have helped manage for workers and families affected by the 2008 Imperial Sugar refinery explosion in Port Wentworth. If you have any questions about filing a workers’ comp, personal injury, or wrongful death claim after a catastrophic accident at work, such as the incident at the Foundation Food Group facility, then please call (770) 741-1951 right away to request a FREE, no-obligation case consultation with our Gainesville fatal work accident lawsuit attorneys.