Trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil weighs up to 3,000 lbs. That's like having a small car fall on you.
In 2015, we told you about a contractor fined more than $400,000 for failing to follow OSHA safety guidelines. Somehow, the employee in question wasn't killed.
That wasn't the fate for a 33-year-old employee of a different company. He was crushed while digging a 12-foot trench in Washington Township, Ohio, to install a sewer line at a residential home under construction. Chillingly, OSHA found that the employee had escaped earlier that day during a partial collapse as well as a similar incident a month earlier.
He's one of 23 workers killed -- more than double the previous year -- and 12 others who injured in trench collapses in 2016.
“There's no excuse," says OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”
Unexpected shifts in soil during excavation can cause walls to collapse. OSHA requires cave-in protection in trenches more than 5 feet deep and that soil be kept at least 2 feet from the trench edge to keep the material from falling back into the open trench.
KRW Plumbing LLC of Jamestown, Ohio, didn't provide protection. 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. In addition, OSHA found the company:
– 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.
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 two feet from the edge of trench.
Based in Jamestown, KRW Plumbing has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Cincinnati office at 513-841-4132.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.