Lessons from a Tragedy
A32-year-old general manager of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant died November 7 in Burlington, Massachusetts,
after being exposed to fumes from an accidental mixture of two
My mind of course went to bleach and
ammonia. Not so here.
The chemicals involved were Scale Kleen
and Super 8, both provided by the same
chemical supplier. Despite the manager’s
attempts to squeegee the mixture off the floor,
I scanned the safety data sheets available on the chemical
supplier’s website to see what warnings I could find. They weren’t
Scale Kleen is a concentrated, highly acidic detergent used to
remove scale deposit. It is also a general-purpose cleanser for use
on a variety of surfaces. Its safety data sheet lists phosphoric acid
and nitric acid as ingredients, but no information was provided
about the pH. The sheet did state that it is acidic, but only in
the section under transport conditions. It did, however, note that
this detergent is incompatible with sodium hypochlorite, strong
alkalis, and soft metals.
Super 8, sodium hypochlorite, is used on food contact
surfaces as a sanitizer without a rinse. It is also used to sanitize
utensils, glassware, and equipment. Its safety data sheet states
that it is incompatible with strong acids, nitrogen, and oxidizers.
Lesson 1: Chemical suppliers, when selling incompatible
chemicals to the same customer, MUST COMMUNICATE
APPROPRIATE USE AND WARNINGS.
Lesson 2: Restaurant staff SHOULD NOT COMBINE
CLEANERS/SANITIZERS unless the supplier (or other
knowledgeable individual) has communicated that it is safe to do
Lesson 3: TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING (chemical
safety, what to do in case of exposure, etc.).
Cleaning and sanitizing is meant to kill microbes. When
worker safety is compromised, or worse, it’s a tragic reminder for
all of us that food safety also includes the well-being of those
who make it happen.
Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
CEO, The Target Group Inc. Don Meeker
Publisher Stacy Atchison
Head Elf Bobby Meeker
Editorial Director Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
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