Tragedy struck a Florida construction company last week after 3 construction workers passed away while working underground below a newly paved road. Another volunteer firefighter is in critical condition, and possibly in a coma according to WSVN Miami, after entering the manhole trying to save the victims.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the deaths, but CBS4 Miami reported that the men entered the manhole to investigate a strong rotten egg smell that nearby residents were complaining about. CBS4 was told by a law enforcement source that they believe the deaths were caused by a chain reaction. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. It’s believed that the a combination of methane and hydrogen sulfide gasses, as well as low levels of oxygen is what caused them to collapse.
Back in 2015, OSHA released a new standard for confined spaces in construction, which include all areas that have limited access points and possible air quality hazards. There were several regulations that OSHA added that could have possibly prevented these deaths from happening. According to the rule, each confined space should be inspected by a competent person and provide a continuous monitoring of the airspace. Each person entering the confined space should have also been given testing and monitoring equipment, ventilation equipment, communication equipment, PPE, proper lighting, and emergency equipment, among several other items.
It’s not clear exactly what procedures or equipment the employer provided the three victims, but take this story as a clear example of how not being prepared can cause a tragedy. According to NIOSH, more than 60% of confined space deaths are would-be rescuers, meaning those who are trying to save a victim. That sad statistic was proven accurate by last week’s incident.
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Last week, we shared some newly updated Trenching and Excavation safety information from OSHA, which was part of their priority goals for 2018. Those updates included a public service announcement and updated online resources. The administration has just announced the update of their National Emphasis Program (NEP) on trenching and excavation safety, which features a period of education and prevention outreach.
Earlier this year, it was announced that reducing injuries and deaths caused by trenching and excavation collapses would be a priority goal for OSHA in 2018. The administration planned to achieve this through increased inspection rates, public service announcements (PSA), updating online resources, and creating a better public-private partnership. Recently, OSHA made good on their promise to issue PSAs and update their online resources.
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