Safety Tips FACE Reports

FACEValue: Worker dies from exposure to toluene vapor

Case report: #13-NJ-059*
Issued by: New Jersey Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: Summer 2013

A 56-year-old batch maker died after a toxic exposure to toluene vapor at a manufacturing plant. The incident occurred on top of a 6,000-gallon, above-ground storage tank located outside of the plant (the tank-level gauges were not functioning, and volume measurements had been conducted manually for approximately 30 years). On the day of the incident, the victim opened the port on the top of the tank and lowered a measuring stick into it. The stick was shorter than the depth of the tank, and the victim was overcome by vapor. Emergency responders arrived at the site and transported the victim to the hospital, where he later died. His cause of death was determined to be toluene intoxication.

To prevent future occurrences:

  • Create a method to determine the volume of a product remaining in a tank that does not put workers at risk of confined space entry or exposure to volatile chemicals.
  • Use extra caution when working with volatile chemicals under high-temperature conditions.
  • Initiate a safety and health plan based on a job hazard analysis.