Trench Collapse Deaths More Than Double Since Last Year

11.29.2016
HR & Safety

OSHA cited an Ohio company after a 33-year-old employee was crushed to death in June in a trench collapse that buried him in thousands of pounds of dirt. Rescue workers recovered his body a few hours later.
He is one of 23 workers killed and 12 others who reported injuries in trench collapses in 2016.
“Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year—an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted,” says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.
“There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”

One yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs.—the weight of a small automobile.

Trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs.—the weight of a small automobile—giving a worker in a trench little chance of survival when walls of soil collapse.
Ohio Incident
An OSHA investigation found the Ohio worker’s employer, KRW Plumbing LLC, did not provide trench collapse protection for its employees.
OSHA cited the company for two willful and two serious safety violations on Nov. 8, 2016, after the agency completed its investigation into the June 15, 2016, death and a subsequent investigation opened in October 2016.
The employee was part of a crew installing a sewer line at a residential home under construction. The agency’s investigation found earlier that same day, a portion of the trench had collapsed and the worker was able to escape.
OSHA inspectors also learned the same worker was involved in a trench collapse about a month earlier at another construction site, because trench cave-in protection was not provided, leading OSHA to open a separate investigation in October 2016.
“This man’s life could have been saved by following OSHA’s safety standards that require cave-in protection in a trench more than five feet deep,” says Ken Montgomery, OSHA’s area director in Cincinnati.

Soil and other materials must be kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

“Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions—including installing trench boxes, shoring, and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse.
“Soil and other materials must also be kept at least two feet from the edge of trench to prevent the spoils from falling back into the open trench.”
While investigating the fatality OSHA found KRW Plumbing:

  • Did not provide trench cave-in protection
  • Failed to protect workers from excavated material failing or rolling into a trench or failing from inside the trench walls
  • Failed to trained workers in recognizing trench hazards

Proposed penalties total $274,359.

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