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Parks and recreation director dies in oxygen deficient atmosphere in West Virginia, July 15, 1987.

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 87-57, 1987 Jul; :1-7
When the parks and recreation director of a small town entered a manhole at a swimming pool, he was overcome by oxygen deficient atmosphere and died. No formal written safety manual or confined space entry procedures were in use. Gas monitoring devices were available. The victim entered the manhole to instruct a life guard on switching sump pumps. The manhole was 4 feet wide, 18 feet deep, and 2 feet across. To switch pumps one must enter the manhole, descend 9 feet, reach across 4 feet, unplug one twist lock receptacle, and plug in the other to a 208 volt three phase receptacle. The twist lock receptacle was not moisture proof nor made for such use. The manhole had been closed for 2 months. Water was about 7 feet deep. After descending about 11 feet, the victim seemed to convulse, let go of the rung, and fell backward into water. The life guard went for help and electricity was switched off. One rescuer tried twice to reach the victim and had trouble breathing. Firemen removed him and attempted resuscitation. Autopsy showed death due to drowning when the victim, who had arteriosclerotic coronary artery disease, collapsed after entering an oxygen deficient space. Further study indicated electrocution as a possible cause of death. It is recommended that electrical work on sump pumps comply with current regulations, that comprehensive policies for confined space entry be devised, and that individuals answering emergency calls be trained in confined space hazard recognition and proper rescue procedures.
NIOSH-Author; Region-3; FACE-87-57; Confined-spaces; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Safety-practices; Breathing-atmospheres
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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