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July 03, 2013
Trench collapse kills worker; Are your employees at risk?

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OSHA says the death of a worker in a trench collapse could have been prevented with protective shoring that the employer had planned to bring to the site the day the accident occurred. Keep reading to learn how this tragedy could have been avoided.

The employer, a plumbing contractor, was cited with violations, including two willful violations. One was for failing to provide cave-in protection to workers in a trench more than 5 feet deep. The second was for failure to have a competent person conduct trench and excavation inspections.

OSHA levied $157,000 in penalties and placed the employer in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Among other things, placement in the SVEP guarantees that a follow-up inspection will occur.

Prevent a similar trenching catastrophe

OSHA says two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Consider these tips to make sure your workers don’t become victims:

  • Never enter an unprotected trench.
  • Excavated or other materials and equipment must be at least 2 feet back from the edge of a trench.
  • A safe way to exit must be provided within 25 feet of workers in a trench.
  • A competent person must inspect trenches daily and when conditions change.
  • Protective systems considered adequate by OSHA include those that are sloped for stability; cut to create stepped benched grades; shielded by a trench box; or supported by a system made of posts, beams, shores, etc.
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