From time to time we like to share experiences from our restoration contractors in regards to losses they experience in hopes other contractors. The following claim was experienced by one of our clients that was digging a trench.
An excavation worker was injured when he stepped out of a trench box and the wall collapsed burying him from the neck down. The trench was 20 feet long, 3 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Fortunately, his co-workers noticed the cave-in and were able to dig him out in about one minute. A life support helicopter transported him to the hospital where he stayed for two weeks undergoing surgery for multiple fractures, a broken vertebra and a dislocated shoulder. He had two steel rods and several screws surgically inserted. He missed seven months of work ambulating by use of a cane and wearing a lumbar brace. The total cost of this claim was almost $300,000.
The trench box was OSHA approved and the employee knew he was not to step out of it, yet he did and is lucky to be alive. Protective systems are always requaired at depths greater than 5 feet and should be inspected daily by a competent individual, or more often if conditions change.
• Do not enter an unprotected trench!
• Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.
• Trenches 5 feet deep or greater require a protective system.
• Trenches 20 feet deep or greater require that the protective system be designed by a registered professional engineer.
Protective Systems for Trenches
• Sloping protects workers by cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation.
• Shoring protects workers by installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement.
• Shielding protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins.
OSHA standards require that trenches be inspected daily and as conditions change by a competent person prior to worker entry to ensure elimination of excavation hazards.
• Inspect trenches at the start of each shift, following a rainstorm or after any other hazardous event.
• Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases before entering a trench.
• Keep heavy equipment and excavation spoils at least two feet away from the trench edge.
• Provide stairways, ladders, ramps or other safe means of access in all trenches 4 feet or deeper.