On June 7, 1985, a 43 year old production foreman of a wire processing company was summoned to aid a maintenance crewman, who had collapsed at the bottom of an open top clarifying tank. The facility employed over 100 persons. The maintenance crewman, an 18 year old summer employee, was the son of the foreman. Sludge from the bottom of the tank was being removed by scooping it into buckets and hoisting the buckets out of the tank. The two men alternated working in the tank because of the intense odor in the tank made them feel high. A window fan was used to provide ventilation inside the tank. On the second day of work inside the tank, the crewman outside the tank saw the other crewman staggering around in the tank and then collapse. Several workers, including the production foreman, attempted to rescue the crewman. Rescue squad members in chemical protective suits and self contained breathing apparatus removed the crewman, who was able to aid in getting himself out of the tank. The production foreman was unconscious when removed from the tank, and was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. Recommendations include evaluation of the method of cleaning out the clarifier tank, development of comprehensive policies and procedures for confined space entry and emergency exit, training those responsible for emergency rescue in confined space rescue methods, monitoring hazardous exposure conditions, and clearly identifying all chemicals in use or in storage.
Division of Safety Research, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Morgantown, West Virginia, Report No. FACE-85-27, 7 pages