Death sends a message: Don’t take chances with hydrogen sulfide

This toxic gas is a serious threat every time you enter a pipe or climb down a manhole.

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Workers face many dangers in the underground world of wastewater. Sadly, the life of one young worker was taken last week when he was overcome by fumes in a large pipe at a wastewater treatment plant in Tampa, Fla.

According to the Tampa Port Authority, the accident happened early Thursday evening, April 11, at the City of Tampa Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant at the Port of Tampa. Seven employees of Lanzo Trenchless Technologies were involved, and all were taken to the hospital after being overcome by fumes inside a sewer pipe. Unfortunately, 33-year-old Jesus Jimenez died from inhalation of the hydrogen sulfide fumes.

Tampa’s ABC Action News reported the workers were cleaning 96-inch pipes at the treatment plant when hydrogen sulfide fumes inside a sewer pipe overtook two workers. Two more workers rushed in to help and were also overcome. The other three attempted to render aid but were unable because of the fumes. 

Five of the seven workers were treated at Tampa General Hospital and released. Jacinto Pulido, 31, was hospitalized, but reportedly in good condition Friday. 

During the rescue, six Tampa firefighters were also affected by the fumes. They were treated at Tampa General and released.

Tampa Police are working with OSHA and project managers to determine the source of the fumes.

Everyone in this industry should be well aware of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide, but for those who need a refresher, it is a highly toxic gas that can poison the nervous system and several other systems in the body. It’s heavier than air and tends to accumulate at the bottom of poorly ventilated spaces. While initially pungent, it quickly deadens the sense of smell, so without a proper gas detector, potential victims may never know it’s there until it’s too late. 

This toxic gas is a serious threat every time you enter a pipe or climb down a manhole. Don’t take the threat lightly. Be prepared, and get out of any confined space immediately if you notice the smell of rotten eggs or suspect the presence of hydrogen sulfide for any reason. Your life, and the lives of your coworkers, depend on it.


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