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Maintenance worker struck in head by exploding pressurized tank.

NIOSH 2002 Feb; :1-6
On June 21, 2001, a 39-year old male died when a 500-gallon storage tank he had started to empty of waste oil and water exploded from its base striking him in the head. He had vacuumed the waste oil and water into the tank from a trench on the other side of the plant and transported it with a lift truck to the underground waste storage area for disposal at a later time. He was pressurizing the contents of the tank with air from a compressed airline located just inside the plant to speed the evacuation of the waste oil and water into the waste storage area. The tank was not approved for use as a pressurized vessel. Fittings on the tank had been adapted for the purpose of connecting them to the compressed airline. The force of the explosion propelled the tank 500 feet in the air over the plant fence and a nearby bank parking lot onto a busy east/west road. This was a maintenance task that had been conducted in this manner for over 6 years. No one witnessed the actual event. Statements from nearby workers and maintenance staff were relied upon to reconstruct what was presumed to have occurred. The deceased was found lying near the place where he had been last seen beginning to drain the tank. Emergency personnel confirmed that he was dead when they arrived at the site. Recommendations: 1. Conduct job safety analyses and establish standard operating procedures for routine maintenance tasks and train the maintenance personnel in these procedures. 2. Do not pressurize a container not approved as a pressure vessel. 3. Train maintenance personnel to anticipate conditions that could jeopardize their safety or the safety of others. 4. Inform employees that no equipment is to be altered or retrofitted. Establish a procedure for a qualified person(s) to review proposed equipment changes. Conduct periodic plant audits specifically for non-standard use of equipment.
Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Region-5; Work-practices; Training; Work-analysis; Work-operations; Work-performance; Safety-monitoring; Equipment-reliability
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-01MI038; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-521205
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Michigan State University