A crew member put on safety gear before entering a confined space, but there was one problem: It was the wrong type of equipment.
Assigned to drain liquid from a tank that measured 12 feet in diameter by 14 feet in height with a capacity of 10,500 gallons, a two-person crew was well into the job when the employees noticed that the liquid wasn’t draining quickly because a valve at the bottom of the tank was improperly positioned.
Even though neither worker had been trained in confined space safety, one of the staffers stationed a hi-lo forklift next to the tank and attached two cargo straps to the mast of the lift. He put on a full-face respirator with ammonia cartridges and used the straps to descend into the tank. His coworker told him that it was a bad idea to go into the space, but the worker ignored him.
After climbing through the 15-inch hatch, reaching the bottom of the structure and turning the valve, the man tried to exit the space using the cargo straps. But his feet were covered in fluid and he was unable to “walk” up the side of the tank.
When the staffer slumped to the floor of the tank, the coworker ran for help.
A circular saw was used to cut a hole in the side of the structure and pull the victim from the liquid, but he’d already drowned.
The employer should’ve designated the tank as a permit-required confined space and locked the hatch.
In addition, employees should’ve been trained to recognize the hazards of confined spaces. If the man had been aware of the risks, he would’ve put on a supplied-air respirator, rather than a full-face respirator, before entering the tank.
(From the Oct. 21, 2019 issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors)