VIDEO Technical Rescue firefighters work in a confined space and at the top of a tank containing a methylene chloride sludge — working to remove a man who was victim of a fatal industrial accident.
Wheeling police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 11:20 AM Thursday to a report of an unresponsive man inside a 6,000 gallon tank at Sunnyside Products, 225 Carpenter Avenue. Firefighter/paramedics assessed the incident and called for a MABAS Box Alarm for a technical rescue operation.
The operation focused on a white tank that is located just to the west side of the building near a loading dock area. The tank contained methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane (DCM). Firefighters determined that the man was face down in a sludge of chemicals at the bottom of the tank, which is between 40 and 50 feet tall. The tank has a 28-inch opening at the top. The oxygen level in the tank was at 12 percent. Normal oxygen level in air is 21 percent. Firefighters determined that the man could not have survived the conditions and set up recovery operations. The man was removed from the tank about 1:45 PM.
DCM is used as a solvent for many chemical purposes. DCM is a serious inhalation hazard, and is metabolized to carbon monoxide in the body, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. It is unknown if the man slipped and fell off of a ladder inside the tank, or if he was overcome by fumes and collapsed into the bottom of the tank. He may not have been wearing the proper personal protective equipment. An OSHA investigator was on the scene by about 3:00 PM.
The dead worker’s partner was standing at the top of the tank when the incident occurred. He was transported to a hospital for a checkup. Both men worked for a contractor that was working at Sunnyside, but the name of the third-party company has not been released.
At about 1:25 p.m. firefighters standing on top of the white tank were preparing to remove the man from the tank. An aerial ladder provided access with a pulley and ropes that were used to lift a Stokes basket that secured the body while it was removed from the tank. Extra ambulances were called to the scene to standby for firefighters that were at risk of injury during the operation.
Crews from Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Libertyville, Mount Prospect, Northbrook, Northfield, Palatine, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg and other fire departments assisted Wheeling Fire Department.
Technical rescue firefighters work on top of a tank to recover an unresponsive worker in the tank.
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