A worker who was working alone at a restaurant entered
a walk-in freezer. When the door closed, the worker was
unable to move the "mushroom cap" handle to open
the door from the inside. Three hours later, the employer
found the worker unconscious. The worker suffered hypothermia
The freezer door could not be opened because the push rod of the mushroom-cap handle was surrounded by ice and
could not be moved without significant force. The freezer door was usually open while a worker was inside, so workers
rarely used the mushroom cap. It had probably taken weeks or even months for dripping water to freeze inside the handle.
Ice is more likely to build up in hot, humid weather when there is a greater difference in temperature inside and outside
- Inspect and depress the mushroom cap release handle
regularly so that ice does not build up. Make sure the
cap can move in and out easily at all times. Do this as
part of your regular safety inspections.
- Make sure workers know how the mushroom cap handle works
and how to break the ice if the handle won't move. For
example, try to turn or push the knob. A worker might
need to kick the cap several times or hit it with a heavy
object to break the ice inside.
- Follow written procedures for checking on the safety
of a person working alone.
- Develop emergency procedures in case someone is trapped
inside the freezer.