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OSHA investigating fatal work accident in Chicago sewer

Believe it or not, some of the most dangerous working conditions in the entire city of Chicago can actually be found under the streets that we drive and walk upon each day. Specifically, those workers who brave the city's vast sewer system are always at an elevated risk of suffering serious and even fatal work injuries due to slippery walking surfaces, noxious gases and even high water levels.

In fact, one worker lost his life in a tragic work accident in a sewer located on the city's Northwest Side just last week.

According to reports, a 25-year-old private contractor was working alone in the city sewer system at around 8:30 p.m. last Wednesday, applying protective material to aging sewers as part of an ongoing project. At this time, a massive rainstorm that ultimately dropped up to five inches in some parts of the Chicagoland area was moving through.

Officials believe that the sudden influx of water from the storm caused water levels inside the sewer system to spike without warning and that the contractor was suddenly swept up in the rush of water.

"He was working in an almost-dry sewer, and the storm surge came in and just came up too fast on him," said a spokesperson with the Chicago Fire Department. "When the rain hit, the sewer system went to capacity, filled up to the top real quick and he had no place to go."

Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are currently looking into the workplace accident, trying to determine whether any violations took place. Specifically, agency officials are working to determine if the contractor should have been inside the sewer during the torrential downpour, whether his supervisors ordered him to vacate the premises and, if so, whether he disobeyed these orders.

Authorities have yet to identify any official cause, but the company for which the contractor worked pledged its cooperation.

Consider speaking with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to learn more about your options if you have suffered serious injuries in a workplace accident.

Source: The Daily Journal, "Storm sweeps away laborer at work in Chicago sewer; workplace safety agency investigating," Don Babwin, September 19, 2013

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