CWA Local 3411 Member Near-Fatal Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

As reported by Dugg Harrison, President and long-time occupational safety and health activist, recently, a Local 3411 member employed as a technician by AT&T suffered numerous health symptoms from exposure to carbon monoxide. For several weeks the technician had been experiencing headaches, weakness, nausea, and vomiting. However, he was not sure what might be causing these health problems.

However, after being “called out” one night while on stand-by duty, he arrived home feeling very sick. After entering his house, he noticed he had left something in his company vehicle. His wife, a respiratory therapist, went to the vehicle and unlocked the door to the company van. Upon opening the door, she was nearly overcome.  She immediately tied her husband’s symptoms to carbon monoxide- a tasteless, odorless toxin.

Her belief was later confirmed when next day her husband received the same diagnosis from his doctor. Fortunately, the technician did not suffer any permanent health damage. However, the doctor said if he had been examined the previous night, he would have been placed in a hyperbaric chamber, thus, receiving intensive medical care.   

The next day, the company van was inspected for any defects. Dugg Harrison, President of CWA Local 3411, was called to attend the inspection where he found two holes in the floor of the van- one for the lap-top cradle and another that was left open or unplugged. Further inspection found there was a damaged engine cowling gasket as well as a defective catalytic converter which produced exhaust/carbon monoxide leaks and the technician’s exposure.

In turn, Dugg brought this matter to the attention of local management whereupon the vehicle maintenance problems issues were quickly repaired. However, Dugg went one step further requesting local management check the other Company vehicles for similar defects. Fortunately, these investigations did not identify similar problems.

This is a wonderful case in demonstrating how local officers and safety and health activists can let members know the role of CWA in ensuring represented employers are providing safe and healthful working conditions. Through the use of mobilization, all locals are encouraged to request the employer inspect Company vehicles- particularly those containing lap-top cradles- for similar defects. If we can prevent members from suffering workplace injuries, illnesses, and/or fatalities, we have done our job.