Five Workers Injured from Poison Gas Leak at Apple Data Center in NC

According to a recent report from The Guardian, five workers were taken to the hospital as a result of a chlorine gas leak at Apple’s massive data center located in Maiden, North Carolina.

chlorine-gas-116007-m.jpgData centers for computer giants like Google and Apple, both of which are located in the Carolinas, use extremely powerful servers and data handling computers to manage the operation. Essentially, the network is designed to not only manage data, but to serve as a conduit for cloud computing operations. These powerful computers tend to get extremely hot, so, in addition to using an enormous amount of electricity, they also require a large supply of water to cool the data servers.

Water-cooled electronics are not common in terms of consumer products, but it is a very common method of cooling large commercial data centers and switches. However, due to the sensitive nature of the server’s equipment, including the cooling system, the water must be sterilized to prevent any contamination from disrupting operation of the data center. Chlorine is often used as a chemical agent to sanitize the water being pumped through the coolant system.

Witnesses say the chorine was accidently exposed to air when some of the liquid mixture was spilled outside of the cooling system. When chlorine mixes with air, it forms chlorine gas, which was used as early as the First World War as a chemical weapon. In high enough concentrations, chlorine gas can attack the lungs by reacting with water in the mucosal membranes of the victim’s tissue. This further transforms the chemical compound into hydrochloric acid. If hydrochloric acid builds up in the lungs, even in very small amounts, it will cause the lung lining to become irritated, which in turn will cause the lung tissue to give off fluid, and the victim can drown from this liquid in his or her lungs.

Authorities say these five workers experienced dizziness and shortness of breath and were give oxygen by emergency personnel before being taken to a local hospital for further evaluation and treatment. A spokesperson for the company reports that the spill was promptly cleaned up and does not pose any danger to any other workers at the large data center.

As our Winston-Salem, North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys have seen all too often, not only can an on-the-job illness involving a chemical injury result in lost wages from time away from work during the recovery process, they can often result in permanent damage to an injured worker.

In terms of workers’ compensation benefits, a permanent injury can mean a lifetime of medical expenses and rehabilitation, as well as an inability to return to work in any capacity, or in some cases, an inability return to work full-time in the same capacity as employee was working prior to the debilitating injury or illness.

For this reason, workers’ compensation statutes in North Carolina provide for a variety of different disability ratings. For example, an employee can be found permanently partially disabled, which means the employee can return to work but cannot perform the same strenuous tasks as before the accident or cannot work the total number of hours worked prior to the work-related injury or illness.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Five injured in chlorine gas leak at Apple data centre – North Carolina, June 2, 2015, The Guardian

More Blog Entries:
Bike v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care – Workers’ Comp Benefits in Spite of Underlying Injury, March 28, 2015, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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