OSHA recently reported three separate incidents involving improperly-secured trenches, highlighting the dangers workers face when excavating.
The first incident, which occurred in June 2016, resulted in a worker’s death.
The agency cited KRW Plumbing $274,359 after a 33-year-old employee was crushed to death as he was digging soil out of the 12-foot trench in Washington Township, Ohio when the trench walls around him collapsed - burying him in thousands of pounds of dirt. Rescue workers recovered his body a few hours later.
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 wall and failed to trained workers in recognizing trench hazards.
In total, trench collapses have killed 23 workers since January.
"Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year - an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted," said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary of labor in a statement. "There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."
The second incident, which occurred on Nov. 19, 2016, resulted in injury for a 28-year-old employee of W.F. Hann & Sons, who was installing sewer lines in an 8-foot trench in Seven Hills, Ohio on Nov. 19, 2016.
While working in the trench at approximately 1:30 p.m., the soil suddenly shifted, and the trench walls around him collapsed - burying him in an estimated 14,000 pounds of dirt. The force of the soil was so great that it shattered a piece of 4 x 8 in. thick strand board the company used for shoring. A co-worker dug him out of the trench quickly and saved the man's life. The Seven Hills Fire Department responded to the 911 call and transported the employee to Metro Hospital. His condition is unknown.
This incident marks the 13th time in 2016 that a worker was injured in a trench collapse.
In a related incident, OSHA reported that an agency inspector saw a worker in a 15-foot deep unprotected trench in Berea, Ohio and ensured he was removed from danger. The agency has opened an investigation of the man's employer, Trax Construction Co. of Wickliffe, as a result.
"The employers of both of these men are just lucky that neither of these men were killed while working in a trench without adequate safety protections," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's Cleveland area director in a statement. "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."
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.
The agency last inspected Cleveland-based W.F. Hann & Sons in 1999. The company was issued three citations related to a lack of fall protection, training, and frequent inspections. Trax Construction Co. was last inspected in 2014 and was issued a citation related to lack of adequate cave-in protection.