Two men remained hospitalized Wednesday, a day after they were overcome by toxic fumes in a truck at their employer’s Erie Boulevard work site, and the federal government is investigating the incident, officials said.
Ed Jerome, director of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Albany, said OSHA the investigation could take several weeks.
“There are certain accidents we always respond to, such as confined space incidents, which can involve one or more fatalities. When we heard about it, we got someone out there right away,” Jerome said. “We know these types of situations are very serious.”
Ellis Hospital spokeswoman Donna Evans said both men were at the hospital, but would not state their conditions. She cited privacy restrictions.
A source familiar with the case, and not affiliated with the hospital, said both men were in Ellis’ intensive care unit. Officials have not released the names of the injured.
The men work for Precision Industrial Maintenance at 1710 Erie Blvd, which specializes in cleaning pipes, culverts and industrial sites. A company spokeswoman had no comment Wednesday.
Firefighters on Tuesday pulled the two men unconscious from inside a tanker truck used to collect raw sewage. The men were overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes, a gas generated by sewage.
One man was overwhelmed by fumes when he went inside the tanker — a confined space — for an unspecified reason, and the second man was overcome when he went to help, city firefighters said.
Both men were in critical condition when taken to Ellis on Tuesday, shortly after the incident was reported at 9:50 a.m.
Nine other firefighters and ambulance personnel had to be decontaminated at Ellis following their exposure to the fumes. The Schenectady County Hazardous Materials Response Team was called.
Jerome said OSHA cited Precision in March for eight violations, seven of them serious, following a spot inspection of a job it was performing at University at Albany’s Husted Hall on Western Avenue.
He said Precision failed to provide workers with protective clothing and change areas and did not monitor their exposure to airborne particles.
OSHA initially fined Precision $4,700, but reached a settlement where the company paid a fine of $2,470, Jerome said.
“It was program inspection from a randomized list. When we went there, we encountered some violations,” Jerome said.