State investigates SunTrust Mortgage incident

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - On the same day that business got back to normal at SunTrust Mortgage - Richmond firefighters said carbon monoxide detectors were not the issue.

"It's not in the code that they have to have them, nor is it in the building code," said Richmond Fire/EMS Lt. Shawn Jones.

41 people got sick, including ten who were hospitalized, when the wind blew fumes from an emergency generator into the ventilation system. Its standard protocol for the state to investigate but it's unclear what, if any, workplace rules were violated.

"Placement of alarms and that sort of thing isn't something that OSHA standards specifically address," said Jennifer Wester, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

Lee Newton works with Industrial Generators and his installers know this kind of thing is not unheard of.

"One of the things we also are concerned about is getting that far enough away from the building, that it doesn't get sucked back in, or re-circulate back into the building," Lee said.

Even though safeguards do exist against the re-circulation of carbon monoxide and other fumes, there are no specific rules on generators being near ventilation systems.

Andy: "Is it just that easy sometimes?"

Lee: "Sure, it can be. If the wind is coming out of a different direction. If it's unusually turbulent, it can cause that exhaust to go right into an air handler."

A state investigator will have the final say on whether this could've been prevented.

"There's not a whole lot that we probably could've done different, or that SunTrust could've done different," Shawn said.

Even thought carbon monoxide detectors were not required here, they are still recommended, for safety. The state has up to six months to finish the investigation, but a spokesperson said it's not expected to take that long.

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