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Mysterious death after fatal workplace injury in freezer resolved

Many questions were asked after the death of a Colorado hotel employee who was trapped in a freezer earlier this year. Further to our blog titled "Fatal workplace injury: Hotel worker trapped in walk-in freezer," posted on March 28, additional investigations have led to a proposed penalty of $12,500 being issued to the hotel. The incident involved the husband of a hotel employee in Colorado who called the hotel manager when his wife did not return home after work. Upon scrutinizing surveillance footage, it was discovered that the woman entered the freezer, never to come out again.

Her frozen body was discovered in the freezer about 13 hours after the door unexpectedly closed behind her, leaving her exposed to temperatures lower than -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately following this tragedy, about 30 individual tests were done to check the exit device that was supposed to open the door of the freezer from the inside. It was reported at the time that the device never failed, and another explanation was sought for the worker's failure to get out of the freezer.

However, in April, an inspector of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration along with an employee of the hotel allowed the door to close behind them as they entered the freezer to conduct additional tests. The exit device failed, and the two people had to try and attract the attention of other workers by pounding on the door to let them out. The hotel was ordered to install devices inside the freezers that would allow trapped individuals to alert hotel security or other emergency services of their dilemmas.

Any Colorado family who is facing a tragedy that was brought about by a fatal workplace injury may pursue financial relief through the workers' compensation insurance system. Although it cannot fill the void left by the death of a loved one, it will provide assistance with the costs of end-of-life arrangements. Death benefits will also include a percentage of lost wages to help with day-to-day expenses in the time following the death of a loved one.

Source: gazette.com, "Hotel workers seek new safety measures after freezer death", Jeff Martin, Sept. 29, 2016

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