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Wastewater treatment plant operator drowns in recirculation pit in Iowa, May 25, 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 91-23, 1991 Sep; :1-15
An examination was made into the May 25th, 1988 death of a 21 year old male operator at an aerobic wastewater treatment facility in Iowa. There were two municipal employees who worked at the facility, the superintendent and the operator. At the time of the incident, the superintendent was driving a contractor to town to pick up a piece of equipment. The operator apparently fell into the recirculation pit while performing general maintenance duties, and was sucked to the bottom and trapped. He had been assigned to hosing down foam in an adjacent transfer pit. While it was possible to hose down the foam from another location, it is thought likely that the victim went inside the railing and was standing on a fiberglass panel over the recirculation pit or the transfer pit, or on an 8 inch curb around the front of the pit. There was no indication of an oxygen deficient atmosphere or that toxic gases had been present at the time to overcome the worker. It is recommended that employers conduct job hazard analyses to identify potential hazards, that employers develop a written safety program with procedures specific to the wastewater treatment facility, and that the employer develop, implement and enforce confined space entry procedures.
NIOSH-Author; FACE-91-23; Region-7; Accident-analysis; Waste-treatment; Confined-spaces; Sewage-treatment; Safety-practices
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
NTIS Accession No.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division