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Two workers die in digester unit in New Mexico, December 1, 1986.
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 87-20, 1987 Jan; :1-5
During attempts to repair a leak and clean out a pump in the pipe gallery, four workers were involved in an accident at a wastewater treatment facility. The pipe gallery is a small room, about 13 by 15 by 13 feet, containing pipes and valves between the primary and secondary digester units. The men descended the spiral staircase into the pipe gallery to begin work. One worker closed the two valves of the secondary digester, assuming the two valves to the primary digester were also closed, which they were not. While removing the bolts from an inspection plate, the plate was forced open by raw sewage which flooded the room. Failing to locate the remaining open valves, the men attempted to leave the area. One worker was overcome by the sewage and a second was overcome trying to save the first. The other men attempted to help, realized they were also in trouble, and exited immediately. Both victims died by drowning. Recommendations arising from this accident include the development of proper work procedures and training of employees for maintenance and repair of the sewage system, development of comprehensive policies and procedures for confined space entry, and provision of some type of pressure sensing device on the line to determine if the line is under pressure when valves are closed.
NIOSH-Author; FACE-87-20; Region-6; Sewage-industry; Confined-spaces; Accident-analysis; Safety-practices; Maintenance-workers
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
NTIS Accession No.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: April 12, 2019
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division