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Furnace operator dies after being overcome by argon gas in pressure vessel in South Carolina, May 9, 1991.
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 91-14, 1991 Aug; :1-8
The case of a 43 year old male furnace operator who died after being overcome by argon (7440371) gas in a pressure vessel measuring 3 feet 6 inches in diameter by 7 feet 6 inches deep. The employer was a tungsten-carbide steel fabrication facility that employed 150 workers, including nine furnace operators. At the time of the accident the victim had been summoned by the vessel tender to enter the vessel and retrieve three tungsten-carbide steel objects dropped during the unloading process. The victim was lowered into the vessel by holding onto the hook of the overhead crane used to unload the vessel. He had retrieved one of the objects and handed it to the vessel tender. He squatted down to reach under the internal heating element and retrieve the second object when he was overcome by residual argon gas at the bottom of the vessel. The victim was removed from the vessel about 35 minutes later. The cause of death was an oxygen deficient atmosphere. It was recommended that a written safety policy be devised by the employer; that workers be alerted to all hazards which they might encounter during the performance of their duties; that adherence to established standard operating procedures be stressed; that the design of the pressure vessel and its internal components be evaluated to determine if it could be modified to allow extraction of objects from outside the vessel; and that an extraction tool be developed to eliminate the need to enter the pressure vessel.
NIOSH-Author; Region-4; FACE-91-14; Accident-analysis; Confined-spaces; Air-quality-monitoring; Oxygen-deficient-atmospheres; Work-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