Recent Death Highlights the Need for Grease Pit Safety
A recent death highlights the need for grease pit safety in Illinois. Grease traps pose a risk of drowning and other serious injuries for workers and customers. Children are at greatest risk followed by those who work near grease traps as part of their jobs. Restaurant operators have a duty of care to employees and patrons that includes properly securing, labeling, and monitoring these hazardous spent grease containers.
Grease Traps Claim Lives
Grease trap accidents cause severe injuries and claim the lives of customers and workers. Of particular concern are pits that are sunk into the ground like those found on the patios and gardens of Sonic and other restaurants. These pits often have lids the size of manhole covers that provide sufficient space for children to slip through. If the lids are not properly secured and locked, curious children can easily gain access to the pit. In many cases, the pits are 5-6 feet deep and contain anywhere from 100 to 3,000 gallons of spent grease.
In July 2019, a 3-year-old boy was killed when a grease trap lid popped open and the child fell into a pit outside a restaurant in New York. Over the past decade, several other children have suffered fatal injuries in these types of accidents. When children fall into these pits, they often drown in grease before help arrives. Moreover, because of the slippery nature of the substance, it can be difficult if not impossible for first responders to quickly extricate the child from the pit.
Above Ground Pits are Still Dangerous
Above ground grease traps pose deadly risks as well. While these are harder to fall into, it is still possible to gain easy access to them if they are not properly locked and secured behind high fences. When restaurant operators fail to lock and secure grease traps, they create a hazard that curious children and young adults may be compelled to explore.
In addition to drowning risks, grease pits pose a significant risk of causing scalding injuries. These can occur when workers pour hot grease into a pit that contains water, or when workers slip on surrounding surfaces as they empty hot grease into the pit. In rare events, the grease contained within the trap can combust and cause severe thermal burns to workers or anyone in the vicinity of the pit.