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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-98-0020, carbon monoxide intoxication and death in a newly constructed sewer manhole.
Decker JA; Deitchman S; Santis LD
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 98-0020, 1997 Oct; :1-22
This report describes three cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in a manhole, including one fatality, from CO migrating through soil after nearby use of explosives. A municipal sewer project involved installation of new pipes and manholes. Work of the general construction contractor was interrupted when a subcontractor detonated 265 pounds of nitroglycerin-based explosive 40-60 feet south of the manhole to break up underlying rock. A construction worker who descended into the manhole 45 minutes after the explosion collapsed within minutes, and two co-workers descended into the manhole to rescue him. One rescuer retrieved the unconscious worker, and the other rescuer died in the manhole. All workers had elevated carboxyhemoglobin levels. In the subsequent NIOSH investigation, air monitoring was conducted with real-time instruments, and air samples were collected in Tedlar bags. Laboratory analyses of the bag samples collected near the bottom showed 1905 parts per million (ppm) CO, 19.5% oxygen, and 3% carbon dioxide. Direct reading instruments showed progressively higher concentrations as the sensor was lowered into the manhole. Subsequent chamber tests on sample explosive yielded 27 liters CO per kilogram detonated. Based on this value, the surface blast at the construction site may have produced about 3,250 liters (114.8 cubic feet) CO. The CO in this incident most likely was released from the nearby explosion and migrated through soil and fractured rock into the manhole. The blasting and construction industries should be made aware of this previously unrecognized CO exposure hazard associated with surface blasting. The extent of CO exposure from explosives used in construction is not known, and additional information on the extent of CO exposure must be collected. In addition, confined space entry procedures (including monitoring confined space atmospheres before entry) should be observed; CO monitoring of confined spaces in the presence of blasting can prevent future incidents such as this one.
Explosive-gases; Explosive-hazards; Explosives; Explosives-industry; Toxic-gases; Confined-spaces; Construction-Search
Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
NTIS Accession No.
PRL; DSHEFS; OECSP
Other Occupational Concerns
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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Page last reviewed: April 12, 2019
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division