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Sewer worker dies when inflatable sewer plug bursts in Washington, D.C., November 29, 1989.
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 90-17, 1990 Jul; :1-9
A 45 year old male municipal sewer maintenance worker who was working inside a 12 1/2 foot deep sewer chamber died when an inflatable sewer plug burst, allowing sewage to flood the chamber. A crew of ten workers was assigned the task of diverting the flow of sewage in a 6 foot diameter sewer main branch in preparation for installing some adjustable weirs. The crew lowered an inflatable sewer plug into a diversion gate chamber and anchored it several feet into the right leg of the sewer main. An air line, connected to an air compressor at the surface, was attached to an air valve on the inflatable sewer plug. The victim was operating the compressor and left it running unattended, entering the gate chamber to inspect the plug. The plug burst in a few minutes, forcing water and air into the chamber, fatally injuring the worker. It is recommended that where worker entry into sewers is necessary, slide gates be used instead of or in conjunction with inflatable sewer plugs; that employers ensure that sewer workers follow all the sewer plug manufacturer's safety recommendations; and that employers develop and implement a comprehensive confined space entry program.
NIOSH-Author; Region-3; FACE-90-17; Accident-analysis; Sewer-cleaning; Sewage-industry; Confined-spaces; Maintenance-workers; Traumatic-injuries
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