September 3, 2014 | Barb Carr

Remembering an Accident: Imperial Foods Processing Plant Fire

On September 3, 1991, a fire broke out at Imperial Foods Processing Plant in Hamlet, North Carolina after a repaired hydraulic line burst.

Heating gas plumes from a cooking vat ignited hydraulic fluid spreading heavy black smoke throughout the plant within a couple of minutes. Twenty-five workers lost their lives including a route salesman who had been filling food machines in the break room. Fifty-four people were injured.

It was determined that the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation when the workers could not exit the building due to blocked or locked exits. According to the Fire & Rescue Journal, “Hydrocarbon-charged smoke, particularly as heavy as this, is extremely debilitating to the human body and can disable a person with one or two breaths.”

Imperial Food’s owner pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 19 years 11 months in prison. The victims received a $16.1 settlement. (New York Times.)

In the following video, a visitor films the memorial for all the workers whose lives were lost.

It’s devastating when a workplace becomes a memorial to workers who perished there. Learn best practices to find and fix root causes so this never happens at your facility:


Root Cause Analysis
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