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Owner/foreman of construction company dies in 15 foot-deep manhole in California, October 14, 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 87-05, 1986 Nov; :1-5
The owner of a construction company was discovered face down at the bottom of a 15 foot deep manhole which had about 3 feet of muddy water at the bottom. The company employed about 13 individuals and was subcontracted to install a sewage collection system in a park. Extensive damage to a section of the concrete cylinder produced by efforts to straighten the manhole allowed mud and water to seep into the hole. The manhole was not connected to a sewer line. The victim was operating a backhoe, and requested a worker to remove the manhole cover so he could check the grade. The victim was observed walking toward the manhole; 15 minutes later he was found in the manhole, face down. One worker who entered the manhole felt breathless and nauseated. Other workers removed the victim, and did not suffer any ill effects from entering the manhole. The autopsy report suggested that the man slipped and fell on entering the manhole, was knocked unconscious, and drowned in the water at the bottom. The day after the accident, normal levels of oxygen were found in the manhole, and tests for noxious gases indicated they were below the level of danger. Recommendations arising from this accident include the training of a standby person when workers enter a confined space, the development of a comprehensive safety program that documents procedures for safe entry to confined spaces, and a requirement by property owners who contract construction projects that all safety requirements are enforced during the job.
NIOSH-Author; Region-9; FACE-87-05; Safety-practices; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Confined-spaces; Accident-analysis; Construction-Search
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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