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Two supervisors die in manhole in South Carolina, August 11, 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 88-01, 1988 Apr; :1-7
The case of a city wastewater treatment facility supervisor and a public works director who entered a manhole with an oxygen deficient atmosphere and collapsed was examined. The men worked for a small municipality which had 208 employees. The director apparently entered a manhole at the north end of the filter beds at the wastewater treatment facility to take samples, while the site supervisor stood by observing. On exiting the manhole the director called for a sewer vacuum truck to come and clean sand from the pipe. The facility superintendent arrived at the facility, and all three men drove to the manhole at the south end of the filtration beds. The supervisor entered this manhole to determine if there was also sand at that end of the pipe. The other two men heard a splash, and saw that the supervisor had collapsed; both men entered to assist the downed man and one was also overcome. The superintendent managed to escape. An attempt by a facility operator with a self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to rescue the men failed when an air hose was damaged; fire department rescuers with SCBAs were able to removed the victims. Testing of the manhole one day after the accident revealed an oxygen concentration of 11 percent. The employer should implement a comprehensive safety review program of the existing safety policy and procedures. Included should be a section dealing with the safe entry of a confined space. The employer should also see to it that safety rules are enforced.
NIOSH-Author; Region-4; FACE-88-01; Accident-analysis; Work-practices; Safety-research; Maintenance-workers; Confined-spaces; 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