Thursday, August 07, 2003

Confined Space Fatalities

Earlier this week I wrote about a confined space incident that had a happy ending. Those workers were lucky. The ones I ran across today weren't:

Authorities in Hanover County are trying to determine what caused the death of a landfill worker. The accident happened Monday afternoon at a privately owned landfill.

Officials say two maintenance workers went into a manhole 18 feet deep to check on a sump pump. One of the men passed out and died before they could get him out. Investigators are not sure what caused the man to collapse. The man's name has not been released.

This is a confined space incident where the toxic gas was apparently introduced by the workers when they a gasoline-powered pump into a hole. This is an example of a poor or missing safety program and another where the rescuer almost ends up dead:

One city worker is dead and another was in serious condition this morning after an accident late Sunday afternoon that occurred while they were trying to repair a sewage pump station in Athens.

Mike Stanley, a 14-year city employee, was pronounced dead at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, according to Athens Service-Safety Director Wayne Key.

Dave Carder was listed in serious condition this morning at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, a hospital spokesman said.

The two men were overcome, possibly by carbon monoxide, after responding to a maintenance problem at the Oakmont sanitary lift station. Worker Scott Lambert also was at the scene.

Key said an underground portion of the lift station had flooded, and the workers attempted to use a vacuum truck to pump it out. When that failed, they gradually lowered a gasoline-powered pump into the 20-foot-deep hole, emptying it as the pump was lowered.

Stanley then descended into the lift station, but became ill. Lambert left the immediate area to call 911, and while he was away Carder apparently went down into the pump station to try to rescue Stanley, Key said.

And the U.S. is not the only country with confined space problems, as well as higher injury and fatality rates among foreign workers. This is from Greece:

Dimitris Kolovos, 45, and Vasili Passa, 42, died when they were overcome by methane fumes in a sewer
while carrying out a project for Acharnon Municipality at Menidi.

Dimitris Tsakalis, 32, first went into the sewer to measure its depth and was overcome by the fumes. His colleagues went in to save him and they too collapsed. They were pulled out a short while later by the fire department, but the two were dead and Tsakalis is being treated at Sismanogleio Hospital, where he is in critical condition. Labor Inspectorate officials said the three belonged to a small private team that was working on the area's sewerage system. They had not taken the necessary precautions, such as wearing gas masks, and no one was supervising them. If a supervisor was there, he had run away to evade arrest, officials said.

The accident underscored the dangers faced by foreign workers especially, as Passa and Tsakalis are Albanian citizens. Foreign workers are usually more likely to carry out dangerous work without objecting, are not union members, and often don't have the necessary training. Last year, 40 foreign workers died in work-related accidents, 38 died in 2001 and 20 in 2000.