It is the kind of accident that frequently becomes instant fodder for late-night television comedians. But for a woman at a General Services Administration office building who was injured when a toilet there exploded, it was no laughing matter. Her injuries required that she be rushed to a hospital for treatment. It has also caused many others employed at the federal government agency to become concerned that they may become injured on the job. The incident sent shards of the porcelain toilet flying through the air, injuring both the hospitalized woman and a co-worker in a bathroom on another floor where a similar explosion occurred.
The unusual nature of the accident and all humor aside, this was a workplace injury stemming from a dangerous condition. If something like this were to happen in Denver, an employee would clearly have grounds for a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
As members of the GSA investigated, it was discovered that a GSA employee had sent an email telling acquaintances that she was now scared to use the bathroom. A GSA official memorandum was also circulated that advised employees to refrain from flushing toilets. Initially, management declared the washroom in question off limits, creating a very uncomfortable and unhealthy situation.
An analysis of the accident indicated that the explosion, which occurred in September 2011, was caused by air-filled decrepit pipes long overdue for repair or replacement. The report stated that there was high air pressure in the water system in the building due to a mechanical failure and that continued use of the restroom could lead to further explosions.
It was not until the next day that GSA employees were able to use the bathroom again, but understandably many employees were still afraid to do so.