A South Florida utility business and its contracting company have been handed fines totalling $119,507 after three workers died in a manhole.
An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation found that the three men were exposed to asphyxiation hazards, with lethal levels of carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide found in the manhole.
The first man, a pipe layer, entered the manhole (a designated confirmed space area) and quickly became unresponsive. A second labourer went into the confined space to try and rescue him, but also became unresponsive. A third man followed in to help, but sadly none of the three men survived.
It was found that the companies had failed to ventilate or purge the space before entry and the necessary rescue and emergency equipment hadn’t been provided.
Area director for the OSHA Condell Eastmond commented: “The hazards of working in manholes are well established, but there are ways to make it safe. Three employees needlessly lost their lives and others were injured due to their employer’s failure to follow safe work practices.”
The dangers and specified risks associated with working in confined spaces not only include noxious fumes, but also risk of fire, reduced oxygen levels, flooding, drowning and also asphyxiation from other sources like grain, dust and other contaminants.
You should try and avoid working in confined spaces wherever possible but if you must, make sure a full risk assessment is conducted so you know what the risks are, how to control them and what safe systems of work should be implemented and followed. For example, if a confined space does have noxious fumes, you’ll need to think about how these can either be removed or ventilated.
If you need help with your emergency response plans and rescue procedures, get in touch with us today.