If you live in New York City, you may want to start taking considerable care where you step. A sudden and dramatic increase in manhole incidents is becoming a serious risk of injury for all of the city’s residents, and you never know which manhole might be next. New York residents may feel that manhole accidents are nothing new; the city averages more than 2,000 per year after all. But if the first few months of the new year are any indication, this year will greatly surpass the average.
The first week of February alone hosted 600 manhole incidents, almost a fourth of the approximately 2,100 average. In one instance, a manhole cover flew straight into an elder passerby’s head, knocking him unconscious and injuring him. Most recently, more than 12 manholes exploded in Brooklyn, injuring three firefighters. The sudden increase in manhole injuries may be related to the exceptionally frigid weather.
In order to make the roads safer for drivers in the winter, salt is poured to melt the ice. Unfortunately, this salt can fray cables underneath the streets, which may catch fire and cause smoking incidents or even dangerous explosions. The cost of repeatedly rewiring the underground infrastructure would be astronomical and modernization will take time.
The good news is that winter is coming to an end, and warmer weather will likely lead to fewer manhole incidents. However, as long as the cold weather persists, the risk of manhole related injuries remains high. For the next few weeks at least, New York residents are advised to be wary of any manholes located on or near properties they visit or inhabit.
Source: New York Magazine, “Every Day in New York Is a New Chance to Get Hit by an Exploding Manhole,” Jessica Roy, March 6, 2015