<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=3990718177617800&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Roco Incident Log

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Incident log icon final

Workers sent back into partially collapsed trench

OSHA proposes $243K in penalties following fatal, serious injuries

After escaping from a partial trench collapse hours earlier, two workers employed by an Austin (TX) contractor to install a residential wastewater line were not as fortunate later that day. Both were told to return to the unprotected 13-foot-deep trench to finish the job, and soon after, the trench collapsed again. This time, the collapse buried one worker causing fatal injuries and partially buried the second, who suffered serious injuries.

Following its investigation, OSHA cited the company for willful violations for:

“Despite a partial trench collapse earlier in the day, the contractor recklessly sent employees back into the excavation without protective measures to prevent another cave-in,” said OSHA Area Director Casey Perkins in Austin. “The loss of this worker's life was preventable and the employer must be held responsible for ignoring excavation safety rules.”

Investigators also issued citations for serious violations for failing to train employees working in and around an excavation, exposing workers to struck-by hazards and failing to implement protective measures when water was present in the trench, exposing employees to cave-in hazards. OSHA also cited the company for failing to report the hospitalization of an employee to OSHA within 24 hours, as required. 

“The loss of this worker's life was preventable and the employer must be held responsible for ignoring excavation safety rules,” said OSHA Area Director Casey Perkins in Austin.

From 2011-2018, 166 workers died in trench collapses. In 2019, OSHA reports at least 24 workers died while working on trenching and excavation projects, all of them preventable had the required safety measures been taken.

OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting before allowing a worker to enter.

The 2022 “Trench Safety Stand-Down” week, June 20-24, is a collaboration with the National Utility Contractors Association and OSHA to educate employers and workers and reduce the number of worker injuries and fatalities related to trench cave-ins.

OSHA's trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions

See full article from OSHA. https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region6/04212022

Additional Resources

 

Trench Death Leads to Jail Time

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

For the first time in the state’s history, a Washington employer will go to jail for the death of one of his employees due to trench safety violations.

The incident occurred back in 2016 when a worker was crushed to death under more than 6,000 pounds of dirt when an 8- to 10-foot-deep trench caved in on top of him at a West Seattle home. Washington state OSHA regulations require trenches over 4-feet deep to be shored (the federal OSHA requirement is 5 feet.)

The Labor and Industries (L&I) Department, which houses Washington OSHA, cited the construction company in September 2016 and fined the company $51,500, including two willful violations stating that the company “knowingly ignored basic, common-sense safety rules”.

opentrench

The trench in question had been dug for over a week prior. During the time it was open, there were several days of heavy rain. The trench was only shored on two sides and only part way up. It was dug right next to the house and a sidewalk, weakening the support for both of them. The dirt taken out of the trench was piled right next to it. The trench dirt had been previously loosened from earlier digging. The worker was given a reciprocating saw to use in the trench which vibrated it and further loosened the dirt. Each one of these things made the trench more likely to collapse. There was also no ladder or other safe way to get out quickly.

Violations included: not protecting workers from cave-in; failure to have an accident-prevention program for excavation work; no ladder or other safe way to enter and exit the trench; sidewalks and structures were not supported to protect employees; dirt and other materials were less than 2 feet from the edge of the excavation; and there were no daily inspections of the changing soil conditions.

Trench collapses are well known hazards and easy to prevent if federal or state OSHA standards are followed. Yet every month, workers die (or in a few cases are rescued) from unsafe trenches in this country. Federal OSHA requires every trench over 5-feet deep to be protected with a trench box or some other form of shoring or sloping. The problem is that trench walls can collapse in seconds and you generally can’t dig someone out of a deep collapsed trench. One cubic meter of soil weighs around 3,000 pounds — the size of a small automobile. When an automobile falls on your chest, you are unlikely to survive. Even the attempt to dig someone out is fraught with peril: collapsed trenches can continue to collapse, endangering the rescuers.

Criminal Charges

Two years after the worker’s death, King County Prosecutor’s Office charged the company owner with felony second-degree manslaughter and violation of labor safety regulation for alleged negligence that caused the death. It was the first time a Washington employer had faced felony manslaughter charges for a workplace death. According to L&I Director Joel Sacks, “There are times when a monetary penalty isn’t enough.”

However, instead of the manslaughter charge, the prosecutor’s office later backed down and reached a settlement with the owner, where he pleaded guilty to the crime of Attempted Reckless Endangerment, a simple misdemeanor and agreed to serve 45 days in jail. The company must also pay a fine of $100,000 (in addition to the original L&I fine) and serve probation for 18 months.

The owner is the first Washington state employer to serve time in jail for a workplace death, but he may not be the last. Five people were charged with manslaughter after the January 2020 trench collapse at a wind farm facility in Lewis County that killed a 24-year-old worker. A Lewis County Superior Court judge later dismissed all charges against four of the five codefendants. Only one of the individuals will face one count of first-degree manslaughter.

A Powerful Deterrent

According to officials, the prospect of jail time can be a powerful deterrent for employers who routinely cut corners on workplace safety. However, only 110 worker death cases have been criminally prosecuted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act since 1970, with defendants serving a total of at least 112 months in jail.

Local prosecutors have been more active, to include:

  • In Philadelphia, the district attorney successfully prosecuted the general contractor and crane operator for the deaths of six individuals in the 2013 Salvation Army building collapse, winning convictions for involuntary manslaughter and jail time.
  • In New York City, the Manhattan district attorney won a manslaughter conviction against a general contractor for the 2015 trenching death of a young undocumented immigrant construction worker. The foreman for the excavation company was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment, and sentenced to one to three years in jail.

This article was originally written by Jordan Barab of Confined Space.
https://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2022/03/15/trench-jail-time/

Additional Resources

If you’re concerned that your rescue service may not be adequately prepared, give us a call or check out these resources for more information on how to keep you and your personnel safe around trenches.

 

Open Trenches…It’s Only a Matter of Time!

Monday, January 3, 2022

You’ll spot them everywhere – from a local utility company working in your neighborhood to your workplace at an industrial or manufacturing facility during construction. It’s way too common to see an open trench unattended and unprotected. And, as we know, it’s only a matter of time until it collapses.Trenches-SantaFe-01

More and more of our customers are asking questions to address safety-related concerns. For example, who’s signing off on the trench project? Is the person you have signing off that a trench is constructed properly and safe for entry trained to know what to look for? Do they have the authority to act (competent person), or are they assuming that the contractor is “doing the right thing”? It is all too common that supervisors are signing off on trench permits without having any trench safety training or experience. Therefore, they cannot be considered competent persons.

Of course, this is troubling. It’s troubling due to the hazards involved and the personnel who will be entering the trench. A trench collapse happens in seconds, making an escape very unlikely once the soil starts moving. Due to the weight of the soil and the speed of the collapse, most do not survive.

Trench safety starts with the Competent Person. If none are available, who is watching out for the safety of the entrants? Not just anybody will do. According to 1926.650(b), the Competent Person is “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” Who on your site is responsible for this? Do they have the authority to correct hazards immediately?

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you of the importance of a trained and experienced Competent Person. Now, what about rescue in case the worst does happen? You’ve got an extremely hazardous situation – is your rescue service prepared for this? Your emergency response team may be trained for most emergencies, but what about this one?

Trench is one of the most dangerous rescue disciplines. It requires special knowledge, such as soil classification, hazard analysis and mitigation, understanding tabulated data, and the proper installation of shoring and shielding systems, just to name a few. It also requires specialized equipment that many response organizations simply don’t possess. This seems to be true for most municipal and industrial teams. With specialized training and equipment required for safe operations, it’s a commitment that most rescue teams just can’t make.

With trench rescue, timeliness is everything. Although it is often a slow and tedious process, proper training and equipment can be the difference between a rescue and a body recovery. Don’t ignore this hazard that may be located on your street or worksite. Take a careful look around, we think you’ll be surprised with the number of trenches and excavations that are occurring on a daily basis.

Did You Know?

After researching many of the questions we have received concerning trench operations, we came across this OSHA Letter of Interpretation that was reviewed most recently on November 8, 2018.
Note: It is always important to review all standards and regulations in their entirety.

Here are some excerpts:

1. Can workers enter a trench with water accumulation if the workers are protected from cave-in by shoring, shields or sloping, and the water level is controlled?

Paragraph .651(h) of 29 CFR 1926 allows workers to work in a trench with water accumulation, provided adequate precautions have been taken to protect employees against the hazards posed by water accumulation. The precautions necessary to comply with the standard vary with each situation, and the precautions you listed, such as additional shoring and control of the water level may not, in all cases, provide the required employee protection. 

2. The Stairways and Ladders Standard requires that a stairway or ladder shall be provided at points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches or more. The Excavation Standard requires a ladder or other means of access and egress when the trench is 4 feet or more. Which of these requirements is applicable to trenching operations?

Be advised that since the specific excavation standard also addresses means of access and egress, the more general requirement in the stairways and ladders subpart is not applicable. A ladder, stairway, ramp or other safe means of access is required only when the trench is four feet or more in depth. Paragraph 651(c)(2) also states…as to require no more than 25 feet (7.62 m) of lateral travel for employees.

3. Must rescue equipment be available at every trenching jobsite that is located near or passes by a gas station, refinery, gas line, sewer main, etc.? Can a contractor rely on the local rescue squad since they are probably better equipped to handle a rescue?

Emergency rescue equipment is required to be readily available where a competent person determines, based on the conditions at each jobsite, that hazardous atmospheric conditions exist or may reasonably be expected to develop during work in an excavation.

In regard to whether a contractor can rely on a local rescue squad instead of providing the rescue equipment, please be advised that many emergency situations associated with the hazards involved with hazardous atmospheres in trenches would normally require an immediate response within a few minutes or even seconds.

A rescue squad would be unable to provide the necessary response and therefore could not be used to comply with 1926.651(g)(2).

4. If a contractor has several of the same make and model trench shields at a jobsite, does he have to have separate manufacturer's tabulated data on hand for each specific shield? We have been told that the shields and the data sheets must have the same serial number in order to be in compliance.

Be advised that only one set of tabulated data is required for each different shield design. If a contractor uses several shields of the identical make and model, only one set of tabulated data would be required for them.

5. Do excavations greater than 20 feet have to be designed by an RPE (Registered Professional Engineer) or can manufacturer's tabulated data be used in lieu of an RPE? For example, a contractor may have boxes rated for depths greater than 20 feet.

Protective systems that are designed using a manufacturer's tabulated data can be used in trenches deeper than 20 feet provided the use is within the limits of the data, including depth limitations and soil type. It should be noted that all tabulated data, by definition (1926.650), must be approved by an RPE.

6. We clearly understand that a ladder has to be secured, but we are not sure how. Contractors have informed us that compliance officers have told them that they cannot secure a ladder to the shoring system or in some cases the trench shield. These same contractors have been told to secure the ladder by driving a stake into the ground and to tie the ladder off to the stake. This alternate method presents three different problems: 1) It is not always possible to drive a stake through concrete or asphalt sidewalks or pavement; 2) This method creates a tripping hazard next to the trench; 3) Some contractors believe that driving a stake could create a stress crack. Please clarify these requirements for us?

Paragraphs 1926.1053(b)(6) and (7) address ladder footing displacement which is not normally a problem in trenches. If a ladder needs to be secured against tipping, it may be secured to a shield or member of a protective structure provided the ladder does not alter the effectiveness of the protective system.

7. Does the competent person have to be standing by the trench at all times during the work shift or can he/she go off site for short periods of time, such as lunch, meeting, or maybe to pick up supplies at the local builder’s supply store? Can the competent person move around the jobsite away from the trench? Often the foreman is the competent person and he may have other responsibilities at the jobsite.

It is not normally necessary for a competent person to be at a jobsite at all times. However, it is the responsibility of a competent person to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and to make those inspections necessary to identify situations that could result in possible cave-ins, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions, and then to ensure that corrective measures are taken. Consistent with these goals, the competent person may perform other duties.

8. Must an RPE approve all work when digging below a footing, foundation, retaining wall, sidewalk or pavement? We recognize the need for an RPE to design a system to support buildings and structures. However, we don't agree that an RPE is needed to layout a system to support sidewalks, pavement, and in some cases small structures like a small retaining wall. It is often very difficult to find an RPE who is willing to take on small incidental projects.

An RPE approval is not required when the excavation is not "reasonably expected to pose a hazard to employees." In situations where it is reasonably expected to pose a hazard, an RPE approval is not required when a support system, such as underpinning, is provided to ensure the safety of employees and the stability of the structure, or the excavation is in stable rock.

9. At what point and under what conditions would OSHA consider a trench a confined space?

Under normal circumstances, a trench would not be considered a confined space. The excavation standards address the hazards associated with employees entering potentially harmful atmospheres by requiring atmospheric testing and controls where hazardous atmospheres exist or could reasonably be expected to exist.

10. Some compliance officers are telling contractors that they must use a penetrometer or shearvane to estimate the compressive strength of soil and that the thumb test is unacceptable. Keeping in mind that these are field tests. We realize that the thumb test is not accurate, but neither is the penetrometer that many compliance officers swear by. What is OSHA's interpretation for using a thumb test versus an instrument?

Be advised that the thumb penetration test is one of the acceptable methods of estimating soil compressive strength. The compressive strength can be determined by laboratory testing, or estimated in the field using a penetrometer, shearvane, thumb penetration tests, as well as by other methods.

Source: OSHA Letter of Interpretation: Construction standards addressing excavations (reviewed November 8, 2018)

Additional Resources

If you’re concerned that your rescue service may not be adequately prepared, give us a call or check out these resources for more information on how to keep you and your personnel safe around trenches.

Trench Safety Webinar

Trench Safety & Rescue Articles: Read More

Trench Training: Competent Person | Trench Rescue Technician

Recorded Webinar: Staying Safe in the Trenches

 

Trench Deaths = Manslaughter?

Monday, March 8, 2021

In a grim reminder about the dangers of trench and excavation work, this article from Safety+Health Magazine also serves as a warning to employers. “The court’s decision sends a message to business owners that they can be held criminally accountable and face felony charges if they knowingly fail to protect their workers.”

The owner of Alki Construction LLC has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after an employee was buried while replacing a residential sewer pipe in a trench that had inadequate shoring and was missing a ladder.

Remember to ensure that you have a properly trained Trench Competent Person on site, and check out OSHA's Trenching and Excavation Safety Fact Sheet as a reminder when scheduling trench work.

 

Trench Safety Stand Down Resources

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

June is Trench Safety Month and June 15-19 is Trench Safety Stand Down week. We are partnering with NUCA (National Utility Contractors Association) to encourage everyone who does trenching or excavation as part of their work to participate in the Stand Down by holding a toolbox talk on trench safety. Here's how you can prepare for your stand down. (Remember, participating in the stand down by talking about safety is more important than when you do it.) 

We're also making available a number of informational resources you can use as part of a safety talk or presentation (see below). Our webinar with NUCA about the trench competent person, as well as how you can help the rescue team should you need to call them had lots of great questions. We didn't have time to address all of them within the hour.

Below are the questions that we didn't get to discuss live, and the answers.

What is the maximum gap allowed between the dirt and backside of a trench box or sheet piling?

OSHA speaks to this issue in the standard and a Letter of Interpretation. From OSHA Standard 1926.652(g)(ii) requires that trench shields be installed “to restrict lateral or other hazardous movement.”

 This Letter of Interpretation states " although our standard does not set a maximum distance between a shield box and a trench face, an employer would be required to ensure that, in the event of a collapse of the face, the shield would not move laterally. "

If you are sitting in an excavator inside the excavation, does it still need to be sloped in accordance with the standard?

Yes, OSHA requires that all employees that are exposed to soil collapse shall be protected from potential cave-in. In a Letter of Interpretation, OSHA does speak directly to pile-driving equipment and operations and states that the excavation must be sloped/protected.

We recently had a vendor come out selling inflatable trench panels.  Anybody have experience with them, or an opinion on them?

We circulated this question among our trench rescue instructors, who are also active rescuers in municipal departments from New York to Idaho. We have not had first-hand experience with inflatable trench panels, either by demonstration or in actual use. Thank you for making us aware of this alternative equipment.

Is a Daily Excavation Safety Checklist required to be completed prior to work starting for the day?

The OSHA standard requires a daily inspection be completed prior to the start of work, after any rainstorm, dewatering activities, and after any hazard causing event.

If a trench box is installed, is it best to back fill around the box to prevent sudden failures of soil outside of the box from crashing into the box?  In other words, fill the void spaces / eliminate soil momentum?

OSHA speaks to this issue in the standard and a Letter of Interpretation. From OSHA Standard 652(g)(ii) requires that trench shields be installed “to restrict lateral or other hazardous movement.”

 The Letter of Interpretation states "although our standard does not set a maximum distance between a shield box and a trench face, an employer would be required to ensure that, in the event of a collapse of the face, the shield would not move laterally. "

Should excavations beyond 4 - 5 feet in depth be permit required confined spaces?

No. The OSHA Construction Industry Confined Space Standard Subpart AA 1926.1201(b)(1) states that the standard does not apply to construction work regulated by 1926 Subpart P—Excavations. However, an entity may choose to exceed OSHA’s minimum requirements and classify excavations/trenches as confined spaces. If an entity does apply the definition to a trench, then they are now required to follow all of the confined space requirements as stipulated in 1926.1200 Subpart AA.

More Resources


Toolbox talk English

Here's a great 1-pager designed for a toolbox talk:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toolbox talk Spanish

 

And here's the same 1-pager in Spanish:

 

 

 

 

This is a checklist you can use for planning and continuous monitoring of an open trench, and also a good topic of conversation to share with your team:

Daily Excavation Checklist 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions? Reach out to us. We're here to help.

Stay Safe,

The Roco Rescue Team

 

IMPORTANT: The information at RocoRescue.com is provided as a complimentary service. It is a general information resource and is not intended as legal advice. Because standards and regulations relating to this topic are typically performance based, and compliance with those standards and regulation is often dependent on the specific circumstances and conditions at hand, it is always important to carefully review all relevant standards and regulations, and to follow the proper protocols specific to your company or agency.

1 2 3 4 5

RescueTalk™ (RocoRescue.com) has been created as a free resource for sharing insightful information, news, views and commentary for our students and others who are interested in technical rope rescue. Therefore, we make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, or suitability of any information and are not liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Users and readers are 100% responsible for their own actions in every situation. Information presented on this website in no way replaces proper training!