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Illinois Drainage Pit Claims Life.

Pettit T; Middleton DC
Operations Forum 1987 Aug:27-28
A NIOSH investigation of a fatal accident at the bottom of a 12 foot deep drainage pit in Illinois was reported. One man was asphyxiated attempting to rescue the owner of a sewer service company after the latter had become disoriented and incoherent during a cleaning operation. No ladder access was used. The owner had been in the pit for some time when he asked for a beer and cigarettes. After a few minutes, the workers noticed that he was in trouble when he began singing and praying. One worker attempted rescue tied to an electrical cord but was unable to untie the cord. The victim then attempted rescue without a cord, and both were overcome, the owner falling on top of the worker. Atmospheric tests after the accident showed the oxygen level at the bottom of the pit to be less than 5 percent. The owner's blood alcohol level was above the state's legal intoxication limit. The accident was investigated by NIOSH as part of the Fatal Accident Circumstances and Epidemiology (FACE) Project. FACE personnel recommended that the employer develop a comprehensive safety program for confined space entry, with procedures including but not limited to air quality testing, ventilation of a space, monitoring of oxygen level while work is being done, employee training in confined space entry, testing and use of protective equipment, and emergency rescue procedures. NIOSH also recommended that all companies contracting to have service performed on their property should implement and enforce a written safety policy to be followed by the contractor.
Confined-spaces; Accident-prevention; Sewage-industry; Hypoxia; Occupational-hazards; Accident-analysis; Occupational-accidents;
Publication Date
Fiscal Year
Priority Area
Infectious Diseases; Disease and Injury;
Source Name
Operations Forum
Page last reviewed: February 11, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division