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Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Accident Report Detail

Accident: 170171235 - Employee Paralyzed When Blown Out By Pressurized Nitrogen

Accident: 170171235 -- Report ID: 0950614 -- Event Date: 08/29/1991
InspectionOpen DateSICEstablishment Name
11198739208/29/19911711N V Heathorn, Inc
Employee #1, a 33-year-old apprentice steamfitter employed by N.V. Heathorn, Inc., was a member of a 2-man crew installing a 6 in. diameter PVC heating pipeline linked with a school gymnasium under construction. Pressure testing the integrity of the line, including coupling connections, had begun at the specified air pressure of 150 psi. Shortly before 1:30 p.m. on August 29, 1991, Employee #1 was allegedly working on the adjacent but unpressurized side of the line at a coupling joint located about 22 ft from the gymnasium concrete foundation. Without warning, the pipe slipped out at the coupling joint but did not explode. Employee #1 was in the 3 1/2 ft deep trench, near the coupling joint but on the gym concrete foundation side of the coupling, when the pressurized coupling joint suddenly came apart. The on-rushing and dry grade nitrogen shot at Employee #1, propelling him against the foundation. He sustained serious head and neck injuries, including blood clots on the brain, severe fractures of the neck and spine, and head and facial punctures. Employee #1 is a non-conversant quadriplegic. He has been transferred from Eden Hospital Trauma Center to a rehabilitation facility at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. He has had setbacks in his recovery and could die.
Keywords: head, paralysis, installing, construction, equipment failure, nitrogen, high pressure, pipeline, neck, struck by
Employee # Inspection Age Sex Degree Nature Occupation
1 111987392 Hospitalized injury Dislocation Heating, air conditioning, and refrig. mechanics

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