Last month, a man was killed in a trench collapse during a construction project in Virginia. According to a report from the Sheriff’s Office, the worker was digging a trench for a utility line when it collapsed and trapped the worker seven feet below ground. Despite the efforts of emergency crews, some of which were flown in by helicopter, the man was pronounced dead at the scene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the cause of the trench collapse.
What are the Hazards of Working Around A Trench to Avoid a Collapse in Virginia?
Trenching and excavation are some of the riskiest types of construction operations. By OSHA standards, a trench is a man-made cut, trench, cavity or depression formed by ground removal. It is typically deeper than it is wide, usually no wider than 15 feet.
Unfortunately, cave-ins are the most dangerous hazard associated with trench and excavation projects and are more likely to result in death. Other hazards include:
- Falls in the trench
- Falling loads
- Accidents involving mobile equipment
- Unstable structures around the trench
- Hazardous atmosphere (gases or a lack of oxygen)
- Flammable or toxic gases
How to Stay Safe While Working Around Trenches
Site managers and construction companies should make sure there are protective systems in place, such as sloping or shoring systems. Sloping involves cutting the trench wall back at an angle inclined away from the excavation. Shoring involves installing supports to prevent ground movement or cave-ins. Additionally, there are steps construction workers should take to protect themselves when working in or around a trench, including:
- Keeping heavy objects away from the trench edges
- Know where the underground utilities are located beforehand
- Run frequent tests for low oxygen levels and toxic gases
- Inspect trenches at the beginning of each shift and especially after rain storm
- Never work under a raised load