FACEValue: Convenience store worker dies from smoke inhalation

Reprints

Case report: #2011IA035*
Issued by: Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Date of incident: October 2012

A 53-year-old female convenience store cook was working in an unopened store preparing donuts when a fire started near the entrance. The fire burned for approximately five minutes before the employee noticed smoke in the kitchen. The victim walked to the front office to retrieve her keys, and made a phone call prior to dialing 911. She attempted to exit through the front entrance, but it was blocked by thick smoke. Store security tapes indicate she was confused on how to proceed. By the time she called 911, she could not get out because smoke and fire blocked the front door and emergency exit. She was found dead by firefighters in a storage room near a delivery door. The autopsy report listed smoke and soot inhalation as the cause of death. No smoke detection system was present in the building.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Install and maintain smoke detectors to provide early warning of smoke and fires to workers.
  • Regularly review emergency evacuation plans with employees to ensure everyone knows all escape routes in case the main exit is blocked by smoke or fire.
  • Routinely test emergency exit door operations with employees.
  • When designing store security, ensure emergency exit doors are operable.
  • Mark emergency pathways with proper lighting.
  • Remove malfunctioning electrical equipment from service.