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Ann Arbor Hotel Cited in Carbon Monoxide Death of Maintenance Worker
August 22, 2023
LANSING, Mich.—To uphold regulations and efforts to ensure all workers have the utmost safety and health measures provided to them in the workplace, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) issued the maximum penalty allowed under law to an Ann Arbor hotel following a fatal carbon monoxide poisoning of a maintenance worker.
"The state of Michigan is committed to working with all employers to ensure protections for every Michigan worker,” said Sean Egan, Deputy Director of Labor for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “When the proper health and safety systems are not in place, we must hold employers accountable to ensure future tragedies are avoided. All workers deserve to come home to their families at the end of each day.”
The 49-year-old hotel employee died after being found slouched against a wall of a third-floor boiler room at Victory Inn and Suites of Ann Arbor on Nov. 28, 2022. The man’s death resulted from excessive exposure to carbon monoxide, according to his autopsy.
MIOSHA imposed six serious citations and two willful-serious citations totaling $155,600 in penalties against US 23 Lodge LLC, which operates Victory Inn and Suites. The maximum penalty for each willful penalty is $70,000 under the MIOSHA act, which was applied to these violations to have an appropriate deterrent effect.
Each year, MIOSHA conducts 3,000 inspections, and while these significant findings are rare, they serve as a good opportunity to remind other employers that these tragedies can be prevented.
To avoid workplace tragedies, the state is urging employers to utilize MIOSHA’s free, statewide safety and health Consultation Education and Training assistance. Their in-house team of experienced, professional occupational safety experts, construction safety consultants and industrial hygienists provide a wide range of customized services for management and staff.
“Our goal is always to educate before we regulate,” said MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman. “But when employers neglect to identify workplace hazards or provide necessary safeguards to protect their employees, we must hold them accountable for making sure their employees are properly trained and equipped to perform their jobs safely. This death was 100% preventable.”
A willful designation was used for two of the fatality-related violations due to the employer’s history of noncompliance with state and municipal fire, boiler and building codes. The employer’s knowledge of the worker’s inexperience with boiler-type heating systems also shows the employer’s plain indifference to employee health and safety and MIOSHA rules.
During MIOSHA’s inspection, it was discovered the exhaust on the boiler system was blocked with a metal sheet which allowed the carbon monoxide gases to build up inside the room. Additionally, the system’s air intake was blocked off with a garbage bag that prevented the flow of fresh air into the boiler room.
The employer also received six serious citations related to ventilation control, design safety standards for electrical systems, powered groundskeeping equipment, asbestos and not having a hazard communication program in place.
The employer was deemed a “severe violator” due to at least one willful citation being issued that is directly related to the employee’s death. In addition, the employer will be referred to the Michigan Attorney General’s office for possible criminal charges.
MIOSHA issued the following eight citations during the investigation into the worker’s death.
- Part 301, Air Containments, Rule 325.51103(a)(iii) - $70,000
On Nov. 27-28, 2022, an on-call maintenance employee working in the establishment's 3rd floor boiler room was exposed to an airborne concentration of carbon monoxide in excess of the 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) limit of 35 parts per million (ppm) and in excess of the ceiling limit of 200 ppm.
- Part 1, General Provisions, Rule 408.10011(a) - $70,000
An employee (the deceased) tasked with the operation and maintenance of the establishment's third-floor boiler system was not given employer-provided training regarding the operation, hazards or safeguards associated with boiler heating systems and their operation.
- Part 520, Ventilation Control, Rule 325.52010 - $7,000
On November 28, 2022, the roof-top exhaust discharge location of the third-floor boiler system was obstructed with a metal sheet, a condition that permitted combustion exhaust gases containing carbon monoxide to build up in the third-floor boiler room rather than being discharged outside of the building.
- Part 520, Ventilation Control, Rule 325.52005(1) - $7,000
On November 28, 2022, a fresh-air intake servicing the third-floor boiler room was blocked with plastic garbage bags, a condition that would prevent a flow of fresh outdoor air into the working environment equal to that exhausted.
- Part 39, Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, Rule 1910.303(g)(1) - $400
Access to an electrical panel in the establishment's maintenance room was blocked by equipment and debris, a condition that did not permit the ready and safe operation and maintenance of the panel.
- Part 54, Powered Groundskeeping Equipment, Rule 408.15416(2) - $400
The safety mechanism on each of two partially filled portable containers used to fuel powered groundskeeping equipment had been removed.
- Part 305, Asbestos Standards, Rule 1910.1001(j)(3)(i) - $400
The building had not been surveyed to determine the presence, location, and quantity of asbestos-containing and presumed asbestos-containing materials at the worksite. The material in question was thermal system insulation in the form of pipe insulation/wrap and mudded fittings in the establishment's first and third floor boiler rooms.
- Part 430, Hazard Communications, Rule 1910.1200(e)(1) - $400
A written hazard communication program addressing chemicals had not implemented in the workplace. Employees worked with and were exposed to hazardous chemical-containing products during hotel maintenance and housekeeping-related activities.