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Workplace accidents in California may involve toxic chemicals

When fire crews responded to an early morning call at a California warehouse, they saw that two adjoining structures had flames coming from the roofs. To subdue the fire, they began dousing it with water. However, the fire was fueled by a cocktail of chemicals that reacted with the water causing a series of strong explosions and sending a plume of noxious smoke into the air. Workplace accidents like this can be dangerous not only for employees but for anyone in the surrounding area.

One building was apparently a metal-recycling plant, and the other seemed to be a plastics manufacturer. Firefighters were hampered by the fact that they did not know what flammable materials the buildings contained. It turned out to be a mixture of exotic metals, some unknown chemicals and propane.

The blaze destroyed both commercial buildings and forced the evacuation of about 200 people from homes and businesses nearby. The fumes traveled across the city, and authorities warned people to take precautions in case the smoke was toxic to breathe. Remarkably, no injuries were reported as a direct cause of the blaze or explosion. This may have been because the fire sparked in the middle of the night when the businesses were closed.

In the aftermath of the fire, questions may need to be answered about the housing and storage of dangerous chemicals. While no one was injured, a blaze like this could have cost many lives. California employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, especially when the job entails the use of dangerous materials. When workers are not as fortunate as the ones at these warehouses, they may need to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in workplace accidents.

Source: dailynews.com, "Smell that smell? It's from burning magnesium in Maywood warehouse fire", June 14, 2016

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