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Construction sub-contractor asphyxiated in manhole in New Hampshire, August 20, 1988.

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 88-44, 1988 Dec; :1-5
The case of a 26 year old male construction worker who died when he entered a manhole containing an oxygen deficient atmosphere was examined. The worker was employed by a prime contractor for whom he had worked before. He had 8 years of construction experience. He was working on the construction of a new sewer system. He was going to install a plug in the lines leading to the manhole to keep out the ground water and then break for lunch. A wooden ladder had been left in the manhole since some earlier construction but the hole had not been opened for about 6 months. A coworker arrived on the scene a few minutes later, saw the victim lying at the bottom of the manhole, and telephoned for help. One of the firefighters responding to the call entered the hole without respiratory protection and had to be pulled out. The cause of the death was listed as asphyxiation. Testing of the manhole indicated that oxygen levels were 20.5 percent at 5 feet below the surface, decreasing to 4.0 percent at 13 feet below the surface. It is recommended that the atmosphere in a confined space always be checked for oxygen and the presence of toxic or flammable vapors before entry. Confined spaces should never be entered without an observer outside and the use of appropriate rescue equipment. Contractors should ensure that all subcontractors have a safety program that addresses the hazards to which they will be exposed on the job.
NIOSH-Author; FACE-88-44; Region-1; Accident-analysis; Safety-research; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Confined-spaces; Breathing-atmospheres; Work-practices; Respiratory-protective-equipment; 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