When workers at a Doral diet-food delivery company came in to work early Sunday, they were greeted by a broken exhaust fan.
One of them shut down the noisy fan and that’s when trouble began.
Four to five hours later, carbon monoxide poisoning sent 11 workers to the hospital.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived at Shape Lovers at 5485 NW 79th Ave., at 9 a.m. after receiving calls about a gas leak.
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In turning off the noisy fan, a Shape Lovers employee unwittingly disabled the carbon monoxide exhaust fan, too, said Evan Owen, a spokesman for the city of Doral.
The combustion of fossil fuels from regular kitchen appliances created an excess of carbon monoxide that couldn’t escape the enclosed space.
Over the next several hours, the clear, odorless gas built up in the commercial kitchen, tucked into a Doral warehouse district.
MDFR Chief Andy Alvarez told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that the employees called a service technician in to fix the broken fan, and the worker was actually in the building when the fire rescue crew arrived.
Owen said employees started to show symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which typically include headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, confusion and blurred vision, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
An employee called 911, and 11 employees were sent to four different hospitals, Owen said. No one showed life-threatening symptoms.
There was no carbon monoxide alarm in the building.
“The exhaust fans would have taken care of that,” Owen said.
The Florida building code requires a carbon monoxide alarm within 10 feet of a sleeping area in any new home and in any building with a boiler. They’re also mandatory for hospitals, inpatient health facilities, correctional institutions and nursing homes.
A Doral code compliance officer tacked a bright orange sign on the door, which declared the building “unfit for human habitation.”
Owen said the sign means the business is “not allowed to have customers in there until we inspect again and make repairs. They’re going to have to fix the exhaust fans.”
Several hours after the incident, several workers were seen inside the building shutting down operations. Someone who came to the door at the business later Sunday said all of the employees were fine and released from the hospital. She declined to comment further.
Phone numbers listed for Armando Chapelli, who records show owns the business, were disconnected.
Clarification: The original article erroneously said that carbon monoxide is heavier than oxygen.
How to protect yourself from carbon monoxide
- Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
- Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
- Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
- Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
- If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
- If CO poisoning is suspected, call your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or consult a health care professional right away.
- Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention