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"Man Dies In Freak Accident" –Really?

“A freak accident Sunday night claimed an out of town mans life in Elkton” (TN), is how of Pulaski, TN reported a fatality that appears to have been caused by unsafe conditions inside a water tank. The news report continued:

“The Giles County Fire & Rescue Squad received the call around 9:30pm Sunday night. Squad Chief Barry Whitt stated that once he saw the conditions inside the tank, he ordered the work to be shut down until OSHA could arrive and inspect the situation… ‘I saw a lot of safety issues and ordered the work site shut down until it could be inspected,’ Whitt stated.”

A crew was working inside a confined space in which a number of unsafe conditions were observed to be present in a cursory examination by someone who was not a safety expert. One of the workers died. This is a freak accident?

Water tanks have been the site of hundreds of confined space injuries and deaths over the years and proper precautions for work in these situations are well established. It seems that we need to remind media outlets that cover these cases to call them for what they are: foreseeable, preventable workplace deaths, not “freak accidents.”