When a Worker Freezes to Death in a Walk-In Freezer at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Downtown Atlanta

Last March, Carolyn Mangham, a worker at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in downtown Atlanta, froze to death after being trapped 13 hours in the hotel’s walk-in freezer with a temperature of below minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The autopsy report read: “Found in freezer; malfunctioning exit release button.”

Just a couple of notes on this ghastly story, straight out of The Shining.

  1. Hotel workers and their union would like hotels to install emergency devices in large freezers that, much like an alarm that could be pulled, would notify security if they are trapped inside. They’d also like to carry panic-button devices in case they should need help, wherever they are.
  1. Hotels routinely install unwanted surveillance devices throughout the workplace and on workers—like the notorious “Rex” robotic dog that would follow maids throughout the hotel, tracking their every move, monitoring how long they spend cleaning each room—but they can’t provide workers with desired devices that would prevent them from freezing to death?
  1. OSHA wants to fine the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel a whopping $12,500. That’s how much the life of Carolyn Mangham is worth. $12,500. It may be that the union’s proposed safety measures would cost more. In which case the fine is a bargain for the hotel.
  1. After Mangham was killed, the hotel claimed they ran a series of tests on the door to the freezer, and claimed everything worked fine. But when an OSHA inspector came the following month to test the doors, the inspector and an employee found themselves trapped in the freezer and had to pound on the door to alert other employees and get out.
  1. OSHA has proposed a series of “voluntary” safety measures, none of which approach those proposed in #1. Those safety measures would not be for the entire industry. Nor would they apply to the Westin hotel company or its parent company. They’re simply for the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in downtown Atlanta.
  1. Despite its limited application, the hotel is fighting OSHA proposal: “The OSHA report is part of an ongoing process and we are planning to contest their findings and recommendations,” Carrie Bloom, a Starwood spokeswoman, said.


  1. xenon2 October 1, 2016 at 10:19 am | #

    Westin and OSHA are in for some demo’s?
    In every city?

  2. Will Shetterly October 1, 2016 at 10:19 am | #

    This is an excellent example of the problem with right-libertarian theory.

  3. John Maher October 1, 2016 at 11:17 am | #

    This is not really news. The victims of deregulation and extraction are always disproportionately the marginalized. Occasionally an executive jet crashes but this hardly evens out the death toll from laxity. This is hardly a novel engineering problem and I note that when criminals are prosecuted for killing others by forcing them into a freezer the legal standard, depending upon the charge, is usually at least a reckless disregard for the possibility of death. Seems Starwood and all others should have more to answer for.

    My other question is why are amusement parks with thrill rides and bounce castles allowed to exist? They kill fare more humans than walk in freezers each year and yet they flourish.

    I used to deal with OSHA all the time and even at its height of regulatory authority it was pro business, one could not subpoena all OSHA notes, one could not usually take the deposition of the worker and fines were a mere pittance.

  4. John Maher October 1, 2016 at 11:32 am | #

    I add that the issue of regard for life is misdirected by both Starwood and the employees in the click thru story. This is not a techno fix issue with panic buttons but a design failure issue. The freezer should not lock or ever be locked. Panic buttons fail. The issue should be design to eliminate control and confinement rather than the false hope of a panic button.

    A metaphor for the ultimate conclusion of social alienation in the workforce read thru Marx and Bernard Steigler: worker freezes to death uncared for and unmourned by her coworkers and management.

  5. Edward October 2, 2016 at 7:37 am | #

    What we need is a robotic dog to follow corporate executives around and make sure they don’t commit crimes.

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