Vindicator Logo

Learning how to prevent freezer deaths

Monday, October 31, 2016

Associated Press


Trapped in a walk-in hotel freezer with subzero temperatures, Carolyn Robinson Mangham knocked so desperately on the door that the skin on her knuckles had worn away, her husband said in a lawsuit.

When the door finally opened 13 hours later, the coroner said, the 61-year-old kitchen worker was lying on the metal floor. Her head and eyes were frozen solid.

Mangham, who died in March in Atlanta, was among a handful of workers who, in the last 15 years, were found dead in freezers, federal records show.

Some were trapped by broken doors and either froze to death or were overcome by lethal fumes.

Experts say the deaths are preventable, but it’s not likely the federal government will draw up any specific regulations dealing with freezers. One reason: They’re more inclined to enforce broad rules for employers, such as making clear exits available.

“There’s no question that technologies exist – old and new – that could address this issue,” said David Ringholz, chairman of the industrial design department at Iowa State University.

Motion sensors could disable doors anytime movement is detected inside a large walk-in freezer, he said. Other experts suggested alarms, a cellphone or even an axe kept inside to help someone get out.

Some upgrades would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and that expense can be a big obstacle to improvements.