Over the weekend, a carbon monoxide leak in a Long Island Legal Sea Foods restaurant resulted in 27 hospitalizations and one death. Now the head of the upscale chain is trying to pin the blame for the leak—the result of a defective heating system, authorities say—on inadequate government regulations.
New York state fire code requires carbon monoxide detectors in locations where people sleep but not in restaurants, shops, or other commercial establishments. In a statement Sunday, Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, said the tragedy "highlights the inadequacy of the codes for carbon monoxide detectors in commercial spaces."
How about the inadequacy of Legal Sea Foods' efforts to protect its customers and workforce? Conspicuously lacking from Berkowitz's statement was any hint of personal responsibility for the poisonings.
Regardless of whether you think the government has a legitimate interest in requiring carbon monoxide detectors, it's absurd to suggest this tragedy is rooted in a failure of regulatory oversight. The government shouldn't need to hold business owners' hands and walk them through every single step of creating a safe environment.
The Long Island mall in which Legal Sea Foods operates is fitted with multiple carbon monoxide detectors, according to Newsday. And it seems the mall's owners got the gumption to do this without any sort of legal requirement. After all, not killing or sickening employees and customers is only good business sense. And pumping deadly combustion gases into your workplace is already against the law.
For under $25 and 10 minutes of forethought, this Legal Sea Foods tragedy could have been prevented. Instead, the restaurant's leadership decided to meet only the bare minimum of safety requirements—and that's on them.