Man dies after calling 911, helping colleagues in workplace accident

The entrance to A Baxter Healthcare Corp.
The entrance to A Baxter Healthcare Corp. Brian Watt/KPCC

A Baxter Healthcare Corp. employee died today while helping two colleagues. The three men were overcome by fumes and lost consciousness inside a tank they were cleaning at the pharmaceutical plant north of Atwater Village, authorities said.

Firefighters arrived about 4 a.m. at the facility, which houses technology used to produce plasma proteins for treating immune disorders. They found one man not breathing and with no heart rate. Paramedics were able to restore his pulse, said Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

All three were taken to hospitals, where one of the men died. His name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

The workers had been cleaning the inside of a 4-foot-tall cylindrical tank with a 5-foot diameter, said the LAFD's Brian Humphrey. The tank has a 24-inch diameter opening at the top, through which workers enter to clean it.

When firefighters arrived, two men were inside and one was partially inside, Humphrey said. Firefighters pulled all three men from the “confined space” and brought them outside, he said.

LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore told the Los Angeles Times that the man who died had called 911 and then went in to help his unconscious colleagues, but was himself overcome by the fumes.
The workers were using detergent to clean the blood plasma container, but were overcome by ethanol, which was used as a separating agent for blood plasma, Moore said.

Baxter spokeswoman Deborah Spak said the company was “saddened to hear that one of the employees has subsequently died. We are awaiting further information on the status of the others.

“Our primary focus is on assisting all of our workers and their families,” she said. “We are investigating this morning's events, and are fully cooperating with OSHA and local authorities as the investigation is ongoing.”

According to Spak, Baxter's Los Angeles facility “is the world's largest and most advanced plasma-fractionation facility, and has been in operation for more than 50 years.”

“The plant features advanced technology to produce plasma proteins, which are used in the treatment of immune disorders, hemophilia, trauma and other life-threatening conditions,” Spak said.

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