It’s a safety lesson that needs to be told to workers again and again: If you’re not trained to do so, don’t attempt an emergency rescue at work, especially if it involves entering a confined space.
Ronald Utica, 41, an employee of a construction company, died after attempting to rescue a subcontractor, Joseph Filpansick, 30, who fell into a sewer hole near Fenton, MI.
The two men were beginning work on connecting a sewer line.
Police believe Filpansick had removed a manhole cover to measure for depth. As he leaned over the hole, he was overcome by methane, causing Filpansick to fall in head-first. The drop to the bottom was about 20 feet.
Utica entered the hole to try to rescue Filpansick, but he was also overcome by the fumes after descending only about four feet.
A preliminary investigation shows Utica may have broken his neck in the fall. He was found lying face-down in about two feet of water.
Filpansick was taken to a local hospital and is recovering from a fractured skull.
The Tri-County Times reports it’s suspected Filpansick and Utica weren’t equipped with the proper safety gear to do the job.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is investigating.
A MIOSHA spokesperson said workers are supposed to test the atmosphere of a confined space before entering it to see if it is harmful.
“If they have to go in, they would have to use some type of respiratory protection, possibly rescue equipment,” said Patricia Meyer, Director of Construction Safety and Health with MIOSHA.
Since a death is involved, any violations found by MIOSHA would carry a minimum $7,000 fine.