Intel worker exposed to toxic gas wins $1.2M - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Intel worker exposed to toxic gas wins $1.2M

March 1st, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Intel worker exposed to toxic gas wins $1.2M

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

A federal judge has awarded $1 million in damages to a former Intel contract worker who was exposed to toxic gas on the company’s Chandler campus in 2016.
Ahmad Alsadi, 29, claimed he sustained damage to his respiratory system after inhaling toxic fumes of hydrogen sulfide while one of Intel’s buildings was being evacuated for a gas leak.
Alsadi later sued Intel, Chandler’s largest employer, for negligence and accused the technology company of failing to protect workers from harmful chemicals.
After a six-day bench trial earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell awarded $921,188 to Alsadi and another $250,000 to the plaintiff’s wife.
Campbell concluded there was evidence to suggest Intel had been advised to install gas monitors and exhaust systems before the 2016 incident, yet the company failed to do so.
“Because Intel did neither in the face of multiple instances of (hydrogen sulfide) off-gassing and its knowledge that H2S is extremely hazardous for workers, the court finds that Intel breached its duty with respect to operation of the (wastewater) system,” Campbell wrote in his ruling.
Linda Qian, an Intel spokesperson, said the company was “disappointed” by the judge’s ruling and said Intel acted properly during the events described in Alsadi’s lawsuit.
“Intel has a well-known safety culture and the safety and well-being of our workforce is our top priority,” Qian said. “We have well-documented processes and safety measures we expect all workers to follow.”
Aaron Dawson, the plaintiff’s attorney, said he and his client were pleased the judge understood how Intel’s lack of action contributed to Alsadi’s injuries.
“We were really happy and (Campbell’s) opinion seemed to be a strong rebuke to their conduct,” Dawson said.
Although the plaintiffs sought a higher award from the court, Dawson said Alsadi appreciates how the judge’s verdict vindicates the trauma he experienced.
“He was seriously, permanently injured through no fault of his own and someone was held accountable for it,” the attorney added.
Alsadi had been employed as a technician for Jones Lang LaSelle, which had been contracted by Intel to provide maintenance services to the company’s Chandler facilities.
On Feb. 28, 2016, the plaintiff claims there was a failure within Intel’s industrial wastewater system that resulted in the emissions of toxic fumes.
The system apparently failed to detect an excess amount of Thio-Red, a liquid precipitant, being added to the wastewater tanks for several hours, which incidentally resulted in the creation and release of hydrogen sulfide.
“Intel did not design the system to stop automatically if Thio-Red levels got too high or H2S off-gassing occurred,” Judge Campbell ruled.
The building where Alsadi was working was evacuated and the plaintiff recalled detecting a foul smell of rotten eggs. His eyes then started to water and Alsadi felt his throat tingling.
He and a couple other employees were later taken to a medical facility for treatment.
Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause a wide variety of health symptoms, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but individuals who inhale large concentrations of the gas can suffer from chronic headaches, cardiovascular problems, or memory loss.
Alsadi claims he had no significant health problems before the 2016 incident and believes his respiratory airways were permanently damaged by inhaling the toxic fumes.
Before going to trial, the plaintiff made the case Intel was negligent by highlighting the company’s possible knowledge of emission problems its wastewater system had in the past.
Court records show Intel allegedly knew eight months before the 2016 evacuation that it had an excess of hydrogen sulfide levels in one of its buildings.
According to deposition testimony, Intel’s industrial hygienist discovered hydrogen levels were well above the company’s thresholds and recommended a different type of exhaust system be installed in order to capture some of the emissions.
“The administrative order was issued prior to the 2016 incident, but the exhaust systems were not installed until after this incident,” court records state.
Campbell further took issue with Intel workers having to depend on their own noses to detect the presence of toxic gas in their work environment.
According to court records, Intel had no fixed monitoring system for hydrogen sulfide in the building where the gas leak occurred at the time of the 2016 incident.
“We had no protections,” one witness testified. “They told us basically to trust our nose.”
Treating workers like canaries in a coal mine was an “improper” policy with little “common sense,” the judge wrote.
Dawson said the lack of a sufficient monitoring system was an important element to prove Intel acted negligently since the company allegedly knew it had a history of off-gassing incidents.
“Intel shockingly didn’t have any sort of systems in place to protect people against that,” Dawson said. “Intel didn’t put in a monitor to alert people to get out.”
As a result of his exposure, Alsadi was unable to return to work and claims to still suffer from breathing problems and a hypersensitivity to dust and odors.
Alsadi went into working in real estate and later obtained a bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University.
It’s not yet known whether Intel may try to appeal Judge Campbell’s ruling.