Driving around your town, how many times have you seen workers in a trench working totally unprotected? As an emergency responder, are you aware of the imminent dangers around these trenches and do you know how to protect yourself should you respond to one of these incidents?Trenches can collapse without warning entrapping and surrounding a victim in seconds – making it impossible to breath. Most trench cave-ins occur in good weather, and it has been reported that up to 70% of fatalities occur in trenches less than 12 ft deep and less than 6 ft wide. Failed trenches have a 100% chance of secondary collapse…it’s just a matter of time.
Just a few things to think about…
- 1 cubic yard of dirt moving 6 ft will reach an impact force equal to 45mph.
- 2-feet of soil on a person’s chest will create 700-1,000 lbs of pressure.
- 18-inches of soil covering a body exerts up to 1,800 to 3,000 lbs of pressure.
Here’s a recent fatality that occurred when workers were installing storm drains in Alamo, Texas.
OSHA has cited M&G Equipment Group Ltd., doing business as M Construction, with two alleged willful and six alleged serious violations following the death of an employee in March 2010 who was working in a trench installing a storm drainage system. “A company’s failure to protect its workers from cave-ins is simply unacceptable,” said Michael Rivera, OSHA’s area director in Corpus Christi, Texas. “If OSHA’s standards regarding proper trench sloping, shoring and shielding were followed, it is possible this tragedy could have been avoided.”
Serious citations were issued for failure to provide workers with safe egress when working in a trench, keep excavated soil a safe distance from a trench, use a properly designed trench shield, and ensure workers are trained on excavation hazards. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Proposed penalties total $53,550. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA’s Web site.