Roofing company: Turning off A/C unit could've stopped chemical fume

Teleperformance call center evacuated (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 11pm / Monday, May 29, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Flipping one switch could've saved one Augusta call center a lot of time and it's employees, a lot of headaches. A strange smell that some thought was gas forced workers outside and sent others to the hospital. News 12 breaks down what happened and why one expert says common sense would've gone a long way.

A strange smell forces people outside their job, sends others to the hospital, and it all could have been avoided according to one roofer with more than 20 years experience.

"Combustible mixture, harmful or fatal if swallowed, used in adequate ventilation," read Dwayne Reigle, owner of All Aspects Roofing, off a warning label on light sealants that he says are also put on strong tar used for roofs.

He says the smell that got people sick at, the Augusta Teleperformance Call Center, could've been avoided doing one thing.

"Turn off the a/c unit it, in case it sucks the fumes, and it could make people sick," he said. That's exactly what workers, who thought they were breathing in gas, told first responders .

"Most symptoms were trouble breathing, we did have some with stomach issues, dizziness, things of that nature," said Augusta Fire Captain, Keith Lively.

Twenty one people ended up in the hospital, after fire fighters came out for a second time to check things out. The building should be good to go after 24 hours of airing it out, but headaches from the smells could effect more than just employees.

"Regardless of who's fault it was you always have a claim for worker's compensation," said William Sussman, an Augusta lawyer.

Sussman says the employer isn't the only one who can be responsible for those sick, so could the roofing company, if they did something wrong.

"Then you could also make a claim against them as well. So, you could possibly have two potential claims if you're a worker," he said.

Either way, roofer Dwayne Reigle says warning labels are there for a reason.

"Keep it ventilated, turn the unit off if your doing it around the a/c," he said.

Firefighters expect everything to be okay after all the smells airs out. Next door neighbor Virginia College was also checked out, but no problems were found.

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