Safety and OSHA News

6 people drown in giant vat of ketchup

This story provides an important reminder for workers: They can put their lives at risk while trying to save a co-worker. The best action is to contact trained emergency responders.

Six workers drowned after falling into a giant vat of ketchup at a plant in Lucknow, India.

The chain of events started when one worker fell into the 20-foot deep tank.

Police say, as five co-workers dived in to save her, they were all overcome by fumes given off from fermenting vegetables and drowned.

Two more workers were hospitalized.

Investigators say the woman was scooping fermented vegetables from the vat when she slipped off her ladder and plunged into the tank.

The factory owner was taken into custody.

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  1. As a trainer for First-aid Responders at my workplace, we teach the importance of assessing a scene before approaching a victim. If it isn’t safe, they are not to approach. Depending on the situation, Emergency Services should be contacted, or management can do so. This would be a good safety topic for a weekly meeting.

  2. The safety topic should be about why is she skimming off a ladder? Where is the life saving donut to throw in.

  3. This is a lesson that will always be hard to drive home. Since we spend one third to one half of our time at work, we get almost a family relationship with our co-workers (Well maybe we treat them like weird second or third cousins). SO human instinct and the want to help ones we care about takes over instead of safety.
    On a different note… Is this Heinz, Hunts, generic brand ketchup? You know they will not dump the vat, so someone is going to get this at their BBQ.

  4. Who would normally think that fumes off a vat of ketchup could overcome a person? I don’t think this is common knowledge. And – this is an assumption – but I suspect that the company did not have an adequate training and hazard recognition program to point out this fact. But as others point out there are likely a string of failures, unsafe acts, and inadequacies that led to this event.

  5. Thanks, CDR, now I don’t ever want to eat ketchup again.

  6. sheralroh says:

    Do you really think that India is really big on safety in the workplace… probably not.

  7. This occurred in India. We call it ketchup but it’s more likely a different tomato-based sauce. One reason imports cost so little, besides the lower wages, is the lack of safety and product testing (read: deadly dog food and poisonous plastic toys from China). We in the U.S. are often berated as evil incarnate, but we take a lot better care of workers here and produce better products. BUY AMERICAN.

  8. The most important lesson learned here…and I try to drive into my workers. The most importan person in the PRCS entry is the attendent…they are responsible for security, and keeping people from entering the space until others arrive to perform a rescue.

    Value of life cannot be taught.

  9. Standing on a ladder, no PPE, what could possibly go wrong? They took the owner into custody? Unfortunately, it took 6 people for that to finally happen. I have a feeling it was long over-due.

    As sad as it sounds, it reminds me of something from the Smothers Brothers skit/song about falling in a giant vat of chocolate.

  10. Chuck C says:

    The article didn’t say that this was a permit required confined space entry. With the limited information given, I have to believe that it was. OSHA defines a confined space as any space that has an entrance large enough for a person to enter; has a limited means of access or egress; is not designed for continuous occupation. This vat meets this definition. A permit required confined space is all of this definition plus it has a potential for asphyxiation, engulfment, or any other recognized serious hazard. Since there was vegetables in the vat that could ferment and produce H2S and therefore an axphixiation could result; since there was a chance of engulfment (the catchup); since there were more than likely blades in the vat which stir the catchup entering the vat would requiare an entry permit before anyone enters the vat. In short there is a lengtly list of requirements that must be conducted throughout the entry to be legal. This includes proper training for an Attendent, for an Entrant; for an Entry Supervisor; and for Rescue Personnel. The air must be continuously tested for the presence of adequate oxygen, flammables, and poisons. There must be a retreval system in place; and several other items. It becomes an entry when a person enters (either partially or in whole) into a confined space. The 1st victim did that. Apparently, she was over come by the fumes of fermenting tomatos fell into the vat. Had the air been sampled properly she would not have been permitted to enter the vat and the air quality degraded to a dangerous point she would have been ordered out. Had there been a retrival system in place she could have been removed without five well intentioned people entering the vat. Had the resuers been properly trained they would have known that they should not have entered the vat without everyting necessary for a safe entry.

    My best illustration when teaching Confined Space Entry Resue is to compare it to downings many times when there is one person in trouble, a second, third, or forth person also become a victim because the emotionally charged people are not trained in rescue and become victims themselves.

    My bottom line is that I believe that the company screwed up miserably on this accident.

  11. A. Mobley says:

    Every employee must understand the importance of being “calm” under difficult situations or incidents. If the other employees would have thought together how to get the individual out safely without jumping in themselves, this could have been prevented.

  12. Just like a Permit Required Confined Space, with engulfment, entrapment and atmospheric hazards. Should have been treated as such.

  13. Lorie M says:

    Well, we are all talking as if this accident happened in America. It did not.

    “….Six workers drowned after falling into a giant vat of ketchup at a plant in Lucknow, India….”

    If we are going to condemn safety practices and measures, we need to be on the same page as the company involved.

  14. Mary Ann says:

    This is SO UNFORTUNATE for everyone involved. The situation is over the top–but even within the non-safety parameters, one would think they might have positioned a ROPE nearby attached to the building that they could throw to the person and pull them out, in such a case as this.

  15. George Colby says:

    The biggest point I see is like Lorie M mentioned…this didn’t happen in America. It happened in India.

    I am a safety coordinator where I work, and I have told management that a good safety and health program is what defines american business…and can give us a competitive edge if we take it seriously. The world at large doesn’t spend nearly as much time or resources to ensure safety as America, from what I gather.

  16. Having worked in India for 10 years the work ethic does not include ones human worth. Training, Understanding Hazard assessments and organizations such as OSHA or WorkFit whatever while existing are not visible and the ramifications of workplace incidents are minimal, if at all. This owner will probably pay 300-400 dollars to each family and be back to business as usual. It is a country in flux.

    Example: On arrival to Delhi one year 1995, I witnessed a vehicle crash between a car and a 3 wheel taxi. A man was killed. On arrival 28 days later back to Delhi the man was still there off to the side of the road, bloated and decaying. This was in Friends Colony, a posh area of Delhi. Life seemingly has no value, by the way his 3 wheel taxi was not there. I am sure it was put back into use.

    Same in China, while I was a Safety Director in Australia I knew an American Safety Manager for an International mining company in Queensland and in China. His client, a Chinese Corporate giant actually allocated and budgeted for…are you ready…400 fatalities a year.

    These emerging giants, India and China will eventually get it together but for now the almighty buck dictates.

  17. I worked in Kuwait for almost 9 years for a US contractor in support of the US military stationed there. Half of our work force was from Kerla, India. My greatest challenge as safety manager was to educate these hard working people about the importance of safety because it was a completely foreign concept to them. John is completely on target. The value of human life is small in these countries. If a fatality occurs the family is paid what’s called “blood money” usually a few hundred dollars or less and life goes on as if nothing happened. No changes are made to prevent recurrence.

    Imagine requiring employees, who had previously work flip flops for their entire lives, to wear safety shoes. The guys were up in arms but they weren’t openly vocal about it with management. Initially we thought they were unhappy about the shoes because they had never worn a close toed shoe much less a composite toe safety shoe. After investigating this further, I found the problem. We provided them safety shoes but we failed to provide them socks. They were getting blisters and having other discomfort because they were wearing the shoes without socks. They didn’t know what socks were. Our Indian employees were very eager to learn more about safety and one of my proudest moments was when these employees refused to do something because they didn’t have the properly safety gear such as hearing protection, eye protection, etc. We empowered them with knowledge and they soaked it up like a sponge. They adapted to change much better than our American, British, and Canadian employees.

    It will take a long time for things to change but eventually the people who have knowledge that there is a better way will demand change. I’m sad to say this won’t be in my life time but I know I have helped make a difference in the lives of about 2,000 people from that country. Also, this problem isn’t just limited to India and China. It’s rampant in every country in the Middle East and much of Asia. In my experience, the most safety conscience in the Middle East is in the UAE (Dubai primarily) and it is still sadly lacking compared to US, Canada, Australia and others. My one hope is that this incident will help bring about some change in India, no matter how small.

  18. Unfortunately, here’s what happens here in America:

    “….Six teens drown trying to save each other from Red River sinkhole
    ‘It was nothing I could do but watch them drown one by one'”

    None could swim. Bless their hearts.


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