Safety and OSHA News

$274K OSHA fine for trench collapse death, part of disturbing trend

A worker who was killed while helping to install a sewer line had escaped trench collapses twice within a month of his death. 

OSHA has issued two willful and two serious violations to KRW Plumbing LLC of Jamestown, OH for:

  • not providing trench cave-in protection
  • failing to protect workers from excavated material falling or rolling into a trench, and
  • failing to train workers in recognizing trench hazards.

A 33-year-old employee was crushed to death on June 15, 2016, as he was digging soil out of a 12-foot trench when the walls collapsed around him. He was buried under thousands of pounds of soil. Rescue workers recovered his body a few hours later.

OSHA’s investigation found that the same worker had escaped a trench collapse earlier in the day. The same worker was also involved in a trench collapse about a month earlier at another KRW construction site because cave-in protection wasn’t provided, leading OSHA to open a separate investigation into that incident.

In 2016, 23 workers have been killed in trench collapses. That’s more than double last year, something that OSHA administrator David Michaels calls “alarming and unacceptable.”

OSHA’s standards require cave-in protection in a trench more than 5-feet deep. Trench boxes and shoring are among the options when trenches reach that depth. OSHA regs also require safe access and egress to
all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit for employees working in trenches four feet or deeper

The agency also requires soil and other materials be kept at least two feet from the edge to keep them from falling into the trench.

Trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, the weight of a small car.

OSHA has had an ongoing trenching National Emphasis Program. It instituted the NEP because of the continuing incidence of trench/excavation collapses and accompanying loss of life.

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