Just last month, a 28-year-old worker was helping to remove a waterline in Mentor, Ohio when a trench suddenly collapsed from underneath him. The worker was trapped underneath six to eight feet of dirt. When emergency response teams were finally able to reach the trapped worker, they pronounced him dead at the scene.
The worker was employed by Aqua Ohio, which provides water to the city of Mentor and maintains the company water lines within the city. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently investigating the accident.
Workers Must be Protected From Trench Collapses
According to OSHA, two workers are killed each month due to trench collapses. Cave-ins, which is what caused the Mentor worker’s death, ultimately form the greatest risk at excavation sites and result in the most worker deaths. Other hazards for trenching and excavating can occur with vehicles or other large machines on site or when loads collapse into the trench.
Some steps employers can take in order to ensure the safety of workers on site is to install protective systems in trenches five feet or deeper. If the trench is 20 feet or deeper, a protective system must be created and implemented by a registered professional engineer. These protective systems can include sloping, shoring, shielding or benching, according to what best suits the soil type.
Aqua Ohio is Failing to Protect Its Workers
This is not the first run-in with OSHA Aqua Ohio has experienced. In a 2013 inspection, Aqua Ohio was cited with two violations. The first violation was for failing to provide a ladder that would help workers get out of the trench in the event an emergency occurred. The second violation was keeping the spoils too close to the edge of the trench. Spoils is a term used to refer to the dirt removed when digging the trench. If the spoils are placed too close, the weight could collapse the trench walls. A spokesperson from OSHA says this death could have been preventable had Aqua Ohio complied with trench and excavation regulations.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC is a personal injury law firm that fights for victims of workplace accidents in the Lima, Zanesville, Columbus, Newark areas of Ohio.