A trench collapse that occurred Tuesday morning in Halifax is under investigation by OSHA. A 50-year-old landscaper with Evergreen Landscaping Company became trapped when the trench collapsed. Paul Brown of Plymouth, and several other workers, were inspecting a septic tank when the incident occurred. Paramedics and a rescue team, including the Halifax Fire Department, worked for several hours to free Brown from the trench. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.
Rescue Workers Provided Intravenous Fluids and a Heater to Prevent Hypothermia
According to firefighters, the rescue was especially difficult because they couldn’t use sophisticated equipment to free the victim. “It comes down to little army shovels and 5 gallon buckets. (We) can’t use big machinery because vibrations will cause more sand to collapse on top of the victim,” said Halifax Fire Chief Jason Vizeiros. While Brown was still trapped in the 8-foot deep trench, he couldn’t move his legs but he was able to speak with the rescue workers. In order to protect Brown from becoming hypothermic, paramedics administered intravenous fluids and provided a heater to keep him warm.
Once freed from the trench, Brown was taken by ambulance to the landing pad of a medical helicopter. He was immediately flown to Boston Medical Center, where he remains in good condition. The victim was lucky. Trench collapses often result in serious injuries and death. “They don’t always end this way, so it is definitely a happy ending,” said Duxubry Fire Department Chief Kevin Nord.
Trenching is a High-Risk Occupation
Trenching is actually one of the most dangerous jobs around. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 271 workers died in trenching collapses between 2000 and 2006, and 488 trenching-related fatalities occurred between 1992 and 2000. Most trenching hazards are preventable and easy to recognize. It is the employer’s responsibility to promote safe work practices, and to provide a safe working environment, protective equipment, and adequate training.
OSHA Standards for Trenching Safety
- When workers are exposed to danger from moving ground, trench walls must be guarded by a shoring system, ground slope, or equivalent means.
- When ground material is soft or unstable, sides of trenches 5-feet deep or deeper must be shored, sloped, braced, sheeted, or supported by equivalent means.
- Trenches adjacent to backfilled areas or prone to vibrations from highway traffic, railroads, or heavy-machine operation must be given additional bracing and shoring.