An employee who was working alone at a restaurant entered a walk-in freezer. When the door closed, the employee was unable to move the “mushroom cap” handle to open the door from the inside. Three hours later, the employer found the employee unconscious. The employee sustained hypothermia and frostbite.
The freezer door could not be opened because the push rod of the mushroom-cap handle was surrounded by ice and could not be moved without significant force. The freezer door was usually open while a worker was inside, so workers rarely used the mushroom cap. It had probably taken weeks or even months for dripping water to freeze inside the handle.
Ice is more likely to build up in hot, humid weather when there is a greater difference in temperature inside and outside the freezer.
Regulation 92-133, Code of Practice for Working Alone under the Occupational Health and Safety Act contains requirements with respect to the code of practice for working alone. Please visit www.worksafenb.ca for more information.