Routine Septic Inspection Turns Deadly

A routine septic system maintenance check turns fatal for a Kentucky installer.
Routine Septic Inspection Turns Deadly
According to WHAS11.com, 56-year-old Noel “Glen” Norton of Frankfort, Ky., “died of postural asphyxia due to entrapment in an inverted position.”

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Authorities have released the name of an onsite installer who was found dead inside a septic tank at a home in Kentucky. According to WHAS11.com, 56-year-old Noel “Glen” Norton of Frankfort, Ky., “died of postural asphyxia due to entrapment in an inverted position.” 

Norton, owner of Glen Environmental, was doing scheduled maintenance on a septic system at a residential home, but the property owner was not home when he came, so the coroner said they couldn’t determine how long he had been in the tank.

The report says homeowners “found Norton around 6 p.m. stuck in an 18-inch vertical pipe, with only his feet visible.”

Sadly, hydrogen sulfide gas exposure kills workers inside septic tanks more than it should. Failure to ventilate the area where you’re working, failure to test the air quality before you enter the tank, and failure to monitor the area’s air quality can be deadly. 

If you think something like this is unlikely to happen to you, you’re wrong. On busy days when you have 10 appointments to fit in, sometimes you have to work faster and perhaps these are the times you skimp on proper safety. But let this unfortunate accident be another example of why personal protection equipment is vital. 

When you’re at your busiest, you might forget small steps or skip a few safety checks to get the job done, make the customer happy and get on to the next appointment. You should have an electronic checklist on your phone or tablet that you can quickly scan and check off as you complete the necessary safety steps, including confined-space checks and air-quality testing. 

Do you have a crew of drivers? Start the day (or at least once a week) with a tailgate safety meeting. Review personal protective equipment necessary for the daily workload, and talk about any special circumstances you expect and field questions. 

We’ve lost too many pumpers and installers in the past few years who’ve been overcome by fumes inside a septic tank and died in tragic accidents. Don’t become one of them. 

Do you always wear personal protection equipment? Post a comment below. 



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