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Workers overcome by toxic fumes

Workers overcome by toxic fumes

Two employees of Precision Industrial Maintenance on Erie Boulevard were critically injured Tuesday

Two employees of Precision Industrial Maintenance on Erie Boulevard were critically injured Tuesday morning when they were overcome by fumes inside a tanker truck used to collect raw sewage, city firefighters said.

Deputy Fire Chief Mark Fragomeni said fire paramedics pulled the two men unconscious from inside the tanker after arriving at Precision’s headquarters, 1710 Erie Blvd., about 9:50 a.m.

“They were critical when we arrived,” Fragomeni said. “The paramedics worked on them with oxygen and IVs until they got to the hospital. I am not sure of their status now.”

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, Fragomeni said.

The men were taken to Ellis Hospital and admitted, said hospital spokeswoman Donna Evans. She would not provide their names, nor their conditions, citing patient privacy. However, the men remained in critical Tuesday evening, fire officials said.

Two other Precision employees also went to Ellis for treatment and were released, Evans said. In addition, the hospital decontaminated nine firefighters and ambulance personnel after they were exposed to the fumes, identified as hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of sewage, she said. The gas is colorless, toxic and flammable.

“We put up our decontamination unit and worked in conjunction with city firefighters. From the time the call came in to the time the first person went through the unit was 38 minutes,” she said.

Fragomeni said a preliminary investigation shows that one worker went inside the tanker truck, a confined space, and was overcome by the fumes.

A second worker saw the first one, called for help and went inside the tank, where he also was overcome, he said.

“They had a product inside. They dropped off their load at the Anthony Street sewage treatment plant and went to Erie Boulevard and [the first worker] went inside the tanker for unknown reasons,” Fragomeni said.

Officials said Tuesday evening the first worker may have been working on a piece of equipment.

Firefighters had to open the back of the tanker to remove the two men. The Schenectady Country Hazardous Materials Response Team, part of the fire department, was called in to clean up the site, Fragomeni said. Responders were expected to have follow-up checks in the coming days.

A woman who answered the phone at Precision declined comment. The company owner also did not return messages left Tuesday.

Precision specializes in cleaning pipes, culverts and industrial sites and operates a fleet of trucks. The company employs approximately 60 people.

Precision moved to Erie Boulevard after purchasing the former Callanan Industries asphalt factory in 2002. It was formerly on Broadway.

Evans said the hospital set up its decontamination unit — a series of showers and tubs to catch wastewater — in the parking lot next to the Emergency Department. “We instituted our emergency preparedness drill. We trained for days like this, we hold drills, we were ready,” she said.

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