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Confined space incident kills two workers - company employee and rescuing fireman.

Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 85-05, 1985 Jan; :1-9
A fatal accident circumstance and epidemiology report on an incident occurring in a confined space and involving two fatalities is presented. The report is part of a NIOSH project in which data on fatal accidents involving electrocutions or those occurring in confined spaces is collected. On November 15, 1984, two employees of a petroleum company were deciding whether an empty 10,000 gallon toluene storage tank needed cleaning. Due to limited visibility, one worker decided to enter the tank. As he descended through a 16 inch internal diameter opening in the top of the tank, the worker apparently fell into the tank. The other worker called the fire department. After evaluating the situation, the fire officials decided to rescue the worker rather than implementing a hazardous materials procedure. A saw was used to cut an opening in the side of the tank. Water was sprayed on the cut to minimize sparks from the saw. Water was diverted from the cut at one point to extinguish flammable residue burning on the ground. At this time an explosion occurred. One fireman standing directly in front of the cut was killed instantly and several were injured. The worker inside the tank was presumed to be already dead at the time of the explosion. Possible contributing factors to the accident included the lack of appropriate protective clothing and equipment for the confined space entry, no confined space entry procedure, the small size of the access portal, and possible ineffectiveness of the water spray in preventing the explosion. Recommendations include city fire departments establishing a registry of confined spaces and toxic or explosive substances in the area in which they serve and conducting research to determine the best methods to gain entry into enclosed spaces containing inflammable or explosive atmospheres.
NIOSH-Author; Petroleum-industry; Workers; Accident-analysis; Fire-fighting; Exposure-limits; Temperature-effects; Occupational-exposure; Health-hazards; Fire-safety; Region-9; FACE-85-05
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Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division