WXXI AM News

After child’s death, push to regulate grease traps intensifies

Oct 21, 2019

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (Center) holds a fail safe device for grease traps.
Credit James Brown / WXXI

In the wake of the death of her 3-year-old son, Tenitia Cullum is focused on preventing similar deaths. 

Bryce Raynor died after he fell through a grease trap cover behind the University Avenue Tim Hortons in July. His mother was working inside. 

He is one of several children to die after falling into outdoor grease traps across the country in the last few years. The traps are a common way to capture grease from commercial kitchens. 


Monroe County spokesperson Jesse Sleezer said grease traps were a blind spot in county regulations until Bryce’s law was passed this month. That law requires inspections and heavy-duty covers on the traps. Cullum said Monday that she’s dedicated to spreading these regulations.

“For them, I will take on something bigger than myself. And I will do everything possible until this is on the president’s desk,” said Cullum.

On Monday, she appeared with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to ask the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate stronger lids and locks for these traps. Schumer said these tragedies are preventable.

“This happens. Does it happen everyday? Thank God, no. But it happens frequently enough that there ought to be regulations,” said Schumer, 

In a statement accompanying his visit, Schumer outlined his three-point proposal:

  • That all grease trap covers be secured by some sort of lock or be made of a material that’s heavy enough to prevent unauthorized access.
  • All covers must be capable of supporting at least twice the maximum intended load that may be imposed on the cover of a grease trap at any one time.
  • That all grease traps contain a secondary protection device that would prevent an individual from falling in should its cover fail.

“There are standards for all kinds of workplace hazards. Like if you fall, or how stairs ought to be, and other kinds of things, but there’s almost no standards for grease traps,” said Schumer.

OSHA did not respond to a request for comment.

Last week, OSHA fined restaurant owner Ninety Rock Management just under $8,700 in connection with the Rochester incident.

Cullum filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor for a lawsuit, against the city of Rochester and Monroe County. Cullum’s attorney Lori Robb Monaghan said both are still on the table.