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Waste hauling service worker dies after he collapsed in an underground manure waste pit.

Minnesota Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 94MN057, 1994 Nov; :1-4
A 25-year-old male died after he entered an underground manure waste pit and collapsed after being exposed to hazardous gases. The pit had a square access opening fitted with a removable stainless steel cover. The pit was not equipped with any type of ventilation system or gas monitoring equipment. On the morning of the incident, the owner and an employee (victim) of a waste hauling service arrived at a farm to empty a nearly full, underground manure waste pit. The workers finished pumping the third and final load from the pit. There was only three or four inches of liquid remaining in the bottom of the pit. The victim, using metal braces on the pump, climbed down into the pit. He apparently was either going to install a cover on an open agitation port or move a cover from a closed port to an open port. Within minutes after entering the pit, the victim felt the effects of hazardous gases in the pit and attempted to climb out. As he neared the top of the pit, he collapsed and fell back into the pit. The owner of the waste hauling company entered the pit to attempt to rescue the victim. Within a few minutes, he also was overcome by gases in the pit and collapsed, face down, on top of the victim. The farm owner's son placed a 911 call and informed his father what had happened. The farm owner ran across a road and asked a neighbor for assistance. They found a rope and a steel rod which they bent into a hook. Using the hook tied to the rope, they were able to hook the owner's sweatshirt and lift him from the pit. They were unable to hook the victim's clothing to remove him. Rescue personnel arrived approximately 25 to 30 minutes after the victim collapsed. Equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus, they entered the pit and removed the victim. The victim was transported to a local hospital where he died approximately 24 hours after the incident. MN FACE investigators concluded that, in order to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, the following guidelines should be followed: 1. positive-pressure self-contained breathing apparatus should always be used by workers when entering manure waste pits; 2. manure waste pits should be identified as confined spaces and posted with hazard warning signs at all entrances; 3. workers should never enter manure waste pits unless absolutely necessary and only when following established safe entry procedures; 4. manure waste pits should be equipped with a powered ventilation system; 5. coworkers should never enter a confined space to attempt a rescue operation without proper consideration for their own safety; and 6. all manure waste pit access openings should be fitted with concrete covers.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Protective-equipment; Farmers; Confined-spaces; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-workers
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
FACE-94MN057; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507283
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Minnesota Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division