The tank isolation point is an inherent low point in the waste transfer system (approximately 3.5 feet below grade). The area had been excavated to a depth of approximately 4 feet, 8 inches in preparation for draining. The work package contained instructions for personnel to drain the liquid from the waste transfer system. The method normally used for this activity is a wet tap gravity drain to a poly-bottle. However, due to the layout of the transfer line and the depth of the excavation, a poly-bottle would not fit underneath the transfer line. Instead, workers decided to place the poly-bottle at grade level (approximately one foot above the transfer line) and a hand pump (Beckson Petroleum Siphon Pump Model # 9-A) was used to pump the liquid to the poly-bottle. This dewatering technique is typically used to siphon liquid from a glove bag and was normally considered a "skill of the craft" activity. The hand pump was not placed in a containment device (e.g., glove bag) in this application. During the siphoning of the liquid into a poly-bottle, the siphon pump sprayed a construction worker in the face with contaminated flush water.
Lessons Learned: This incident illustrates how changing conditions (utilizing a siphon pump outside the manufactures recommendations) can lead to unexpected consequences. Switching from a gravity drain method to one where a mechanically induced pressure was introduced to the work should have resulted in a reassessment of the hazards associated with the work.
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