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Victims two, three, and four

November 4, 2007

The Pump Handle relates an awful story that got very little airtime because of urgent media bulletins about movie stars:

Workers dying from asphyxiation in a confined space is a senseless tragedy.  When four men lose their lives in this way, with three of them dying in an attempt to rescue the other, it is a genuine disaster.  Yesterday, four men died inside a 12-foot deep sewer line at the Lakehead Blacktop Demolition Landfill in the Village of Superior, Wisconsin…
The Pump Handle: Four workers dead at Wisconsin landfill

It happens all the time.  One worker after another went into the hole to rescue the others; all paid with their lives.  OSHA was supposed to have a rule for confined spaces 14 years ago, but moving at the speed of bureaucracy we can expect another 14 years to go by until it actually happens.

In the meantime, it reminded me of the survival instructor I had in high school.  I don’t know how it came about that our school offered extracurricular courses in “survival” – I took both levels – but in Washington state where the Search & Rescue often amounted to Search & Recover, it certainly was a good idea.  Our instructor was one of our PE teachers, a crewcut guy we all called “Mr. C”.  This news story reminded me of one of his lessons:

“Suppose you see a man down. He’s just lying there face down. What’s the first thing you do?”

Our guesses ranged from “Check his pulse” to “Call an ambulance”.

“Hang back and try to figure out what got him,” he said.  “Any power lines down?  How about gas?  If he’s been shot, look around.  You can’t do him any good if you are victim number two.”

Or numbers three and four, as it turns out.  It made me realize how lucky I was to have the opportunity to take a course like that.  Maybe school administrators should look at their faculty and ask if any of them might be qualified to teach an extracurricular course on survival. I think I got a half credit for each class but it was definitely A Good Thing.

  1. November 4, 2007 at 09:17 | #1

    Ah, “confined space entry” training.  It’s mandatory for all contractors in the major petrochemical facilities around here.

    And the instructions are specific if you’re the guy who’s supposed to be watching the people inside:  If you see somebody go down, you are specifically told NOT to attempt rescue, but to call the emergency services.


  2. james old guy
    November 5, 2007 at 10:41 | #2

    Some thing about ” Confined Area training ” where I work. OSHA has a history of only doing preventative investigations where they can place big fines.  It might because the fines pay for their existance to a great extent.

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