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Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

 

Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary.

"These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for a plumbing company out of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that they failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read the news release.
Source: OSHA QuickTakes December 1, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 26

Comments from Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

In the above OSHA Newsletter, they highlight this growing problem. Besides the loss of human life, the “SERIOUS” and “WILLFUL” violations paragraph should get you asking, “Are we doing what we should be for trenching in our facility?” 

Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016The new OSHA statistics show in 2016, we have two people a month dying in trenches, which is double the amounts for 2014 & 2015. Why, is the soil getting more dangerous? I can only speak to what I have seen in trends in industry that may be contributing to this rise. In previous articles, I have discussed the subject of trench and trench rescue and some of the following concerns:

• We are relying heavily on subcontractors to do trench work in our facilities.

• Entry Supervisors are not properly trained as Trench Competent Persons and are assuming the contractor is taking all necessary precautions.

• Our Confined Space Entry Supervisors are signing off on trenches as Confined Spaces and not as trenches.

• Rescue - most locations have not trained or equipped their rescue team to handle a possible trench rescue situation even though trench work is a common daily occurrence in most refineries and large municipalities.

• Trench rescue entities are far and few between. Most municipalities are ill equipped to handle trench collapse rescue. Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

 

Give us a call for a private Roco Trench Rescue training course at your facility or at the Roco Training Center. Or, register for Roco's open enrollment Trench Rescue course online.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016
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RescueTalk™ Podcasts explore critical topics for technical, industrial and municipal rescue professionals, emergency responders and safety personnel. Learn about confined space rescue, OSHA compliance, NFPA standards, fall protection, trench rescue, off-shore considerations, rescue equipment, training and more. Get it now.

Gravedigger Engulfed In Cave-in of Unguarded Grave

Monday, January 4, 2016
Gravedigger Engulfed In Cave-in of Unguarded Grave“A Trench is a Trench is a Trench”

An employee of a cemetery in Farmingdale, New York, was seriously injured on May 7, 2015, when the walls of the grave opening in which he was working collapsed and buried him up to his waist.

An inspection by the Long Island Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the excavation and its support systems lacked adequate protection against cave-ins and the excavation had not been inspected to identify such deficiencies. Other hazards included damaged equipment and the placement of excavated soil on the edge of the unprotected trench. These conditions exposed employees to the hazards of cave-in, engulfment and struck-by injuries.

This worker literally came close to an early grave because the cemetery failed to provide proper excavation protections. 

“This cave-in could have been prevented if proper and legally required trenching safety procedures had been followed by the employer,” said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long island (NY) area director. “It is imperative that cemeteries ensure that workers at all its cemeteries are protected against cave-in hazards and ensure that an incident such as this does not happen again in the future.”

OSHA cited the company on Nov. 5, 2015, for two willful and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.

Roco Comments from Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training:

You may think of this is an unusual circumstance, a once in a lifetime event. Sorry, but you’re wrong. During my tenure as a rescuer in NYC, I responded to a number of these jobs, and they present some additional hazards that are not associated with most trench rescue jobs.

You can call it what you want, but a grave is a trench. And the location can make a big difference in terms of hazards presented. For example, I have a house in NY and one in Louisiana – in South Louisiana, we try to bury people above ground, if possible! However, in places like NY, cemetery space is so limited. It’s like high-rises in the city, our cemetery family plots bury multiple family members usually 3 on top of the other, which is referred to as a triple depth grave. This pushes the grave depth to about 8 feet for the first entombment.

So, no matter what you call it – a trench is a trench, and we need to follow OSHA 1926.651-652 requirements for protecting workers. Let’s look at some of the grave/trench basics before we move on to the specific grave hazard. If we dig an excavation that is longer than it is wide, it is a considered a trench – if it is 4’ or deeper, you need to have a ladder or other means of egress for workers; if it is 5’ or deeper, you need to install a protective system.

You must have a Competent Person, as defined by OSHA, to determine what system is adequate and that it is installed properly. They must also inspect the trench and surrounding area for hazards before workers can enter the trench. Of course, there’s a lot more to digging a trench and the responsibilities of the competent person but you get the idea.

Also, just because a trench is only 7’ long and 3’ wide, this does not change the rules or responsibilities associated with digging a trench. If you’re digging a trench, you need to have that competent person; you need to understand the requirements of 1926.651-652; and you need to know who will respond if you have a trench emergency. Keep in mind, most municipal departments, especially volunteer departments, do not have the training or equipment to respond to a trench collapse.

Ok, the added hazard to a grave collapse rescue is the headstone at the end of the grave – depending on the size, they can weigh over 1,000lbs. If it has fallen in the grave on top of the victim, then you will need to use technical rescue techniques and equipment to lift and free the victim. If it is still on the edge, you will need to support, stabilize or remove it before rescuers can work under it. So, even an innocent grave, can be the scene of a complicated technical trench rescue.

Bottom line… if you are digging trenches for whatever reason, or you have contractors digging trenches on your property, you need to be aware of the requirements of 1926.651-652, have a “competent person,” and identify who you are going to call if a collapse happens.

FYI, you need to have 2.9 feet of soil above the casket top. Some say that it’s a public health law. Between you and me, I think it’s to keep Zombies from escaping!

Here is an OSHA fact sheet to help you better understand some of the requirements. OSHA Fact Sheet - Trenching and Excavation Safety

Two New York contractors indicted for manslaughter after worker is killed in trench collapse

Monday, October 19, 2015

Two New York contractors indicted for manslaughter after worker is killed in trench collapseOSHA reports that two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Just recently, OSHA cited two contractors following a trench collapse that buried 22-year-old laborer Carlos Moncayo beneath tons of soil and debris at a Manhattan construction site. OSHA found that Moncayo's death could have been prevented if the general contractor and subcontractor had provided cave-in protection for the trench or braced an adjacent section of undermined and unsupported sidewalk. In connection with Moncayo's death, officials from both companies were indicted for manslaughter and other charges in the New York State Supreme Court on Aug. 5.

"Managers from these companies were aware of these deadly hazards and did not remove employees from the trench, even after warnings from project safety officials." 

OSHA issued each employer two citations for willful violations of workplace safety standards on Oct. 5. Proposed fines total $280,000 – $140,000 for each company – the maximum allowable fines under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A willful violation is committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. 

"Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic. His death was completely avoidable. Had the trench been guarded properly against collapse, he would not have died in the cave-in. This unconscionable behavior needlessly and shamefully cost a man his life."
Quotes by Kay Gee, OSHA Area Director-Manhattan

Updated OSHA guide on Trenching and Excavation Safety

Trench and excavation work are among the most hazardous operations in construction. Because one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, an unprotected trench can be an early grave. OSHA's updated guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety highlights key elements of the applicable workplace standards and describes safe practices that employers can follow to protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards. A new section in the updated guide addresses safety factors that an employer should consider when bidding on a job. Expanded sections describe maintaining materials and equipment used for worker protection systems as well as additional hazards associated with excavations.

Remember, an unprotected trench can become an early grave. Learn how to keep workers safe. Download these OSHA Guides for details.

OSHA Guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety
Trenching and Excavation Safety Fact Sheet

 

Six Egregious Violations filed by OSHA for Houston Trench Incident

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Six Egregious Violations filed by OSHA for Houston Trench IncidentOne minute a worker was working in the 8-foot trench below ground. The next, he was being buried in it. His co-workers came to his rescue, digging him out with their bare hands. Moments after they pulled the injured man to safety, the unprotected trench collapsed again. His injuries were serious and led to his hospitalization.

What’s more, the man's Houston-area employer knew the Richmond, Texas, excavation site was dangerous, but failed to protect its workers.

OSHA has since cited the company for 16 safety violations, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.

"For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. In addition to the willful violations, the company was cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe means to get in and out of the excavation for workers or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.

"Trench cave-ins are preventable," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "There are long-established, basic precautions. They're not new, and they're not secret. This company knew its trenches weren't safe, but still put its workers in harm's way."

OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

(Excerpts, photos and videos from a story by Safety News Alert)

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