At approximately 5 a.m. on Sept. 3, Los Angeles County firefighters received notification of an ammonia leak at the building that houses Saputo Cheese USA, a cheese factory. The building, which is located in the 5600 block of East Imperial Highway, was evacuated. Emergency responders were able to find and stop the leak shortly after they arrived at the scene.
Two employees at the building reported feeling ill and were taken to a local hospital for treatment following the workplace accident. A third individual also complained of feeling ill as a result of the ammonia exposure. The area was cordoned off and the building remained closed as emergency responders in hazmat suits cleaned the area.
A job posting listed by the company revealed that it uses ammonia during the refrigeration process. Ammonia is a colorless gas or liquid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, eye irritation, or burning of the stomach, throat and mouth. The cause of the leak was not disclosed.
California law requires all employers to carry workers' compensation insurance. When an employee is injured on the job, that person may be entitled to receive payment from the employer's insurance company to cover lost wages, medical bills and any permanent disability. It is not necessary to prove that the employer was in any way negligent or contributed to the injury.
Employers that do not carry insurance may be subject to hefty penalties. If an employer does not carry the required insurance, the company may be strictly liable for the employee's injuries, which can also include pain and suffering. An experienced employment law attorney may be able to help negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Two workers hospitalized after ammonia leak at cheese factory", Angel Jennings, September 03, 2013