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Open AccessArticle

Solvent Evaporation in an Isolated Subsurface Structure: An Unrecognized and Underappreciated Risk

1
Northwest Occupational Health & Safety, North Vancouver, BC V7K1P3, Canada
2
Programa de Engenharia Ambiental, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 21941-972, Brazil
3
Escola Politécnica, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 21941-972, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Infrastructures 2019, 4(3), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/infrastructures4030047
Received: 22 June 2019 / Revised: 23 July 2019 / Accepted: 29 July 2019 / Published: 31 July 2019
Isolated subsurface structures readily collect solvents spilled onto surrounding surfaces or poured into opening(s) in the manhole cover. Fatal overexposures and fires/explosions have occurred following these events. This work documents evaporation of 10 mL of lacquer thinner from a paper towel positioned near the base of a vertically oriented precast concrete chamber (volume = 2.5 m3) and exchange through opening(s) in the manhole cover monitored using a Photoionization Device (PID) sensor. A sixth order polynomial fitted by Microsoft Excel best describes the process of evaporation and dispersion in the airspace and exchange with the external atmosphere. Restoration of the uncontaminated atmosphere can require 48 hours or more under these conditions. A manhole cover containing a single opening is most likely to retain vapor for the longest period, and one with two circumferential openings opposite each other is least likely. Results presented here argue for the involvement of individuals made knowledgeable by education, experience, and training in confined spaces to address this unrecognized and underappreciated risk. Optimizing ventilation induced by natural forces in isolated subsurface structures is a natural application of the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Prevention through Design initiative. View Full-Text
Keywords: confined space; isolated subsurface structure; natural ventilation; solvent evaporation; vapor accumulation and dispersal confined space; isolated subsurface structure; natural ventilation; solvent evaporation; vapor accumulation and dispersal
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MDPI and ACS Style

McManus, T.N.; Haddad, A. Solvent Evaporation in an Isolated Subsurface Structure: An Unrecognized and Underappreciated Risk. Infrastructures 2019, 4, 47.

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