DUDLEY, MO ‒ A federal workplace safety investigation alleges that a Dexter construction contractor might have prevented a pipelayer’s fatal injuries in a trench collapse on April 8, 2022, if the company had used trench safety protection measures as required by law.
The worker was installing storm water drainage in an 8-foot-deep trench along Old Highway 60 in Dudley when the tragedy occurred.
Trench collapses are among the construction industry’s most lethal hazards. In the first six months of 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports 22 workers suffered fatal injuries in trenching and excavation work.
Following its investigation, OSHA determined Brown Construction Co. Inc. failed to use a trench box, or to shore or slope the trench walls to prevent collapse. The company did not provide a required means to exit the 80-foot-long trench. It also failed to train employees about excavation hazards and safety precautions and did not have a competent person inspect the trench daily for potential hazards.
OSHA cited Brown Construction Co for four serious violations of federal trenching and excavation standards, and proposed penalties of $58,008.
“A collapse takes just seconds and often ends a life forever,” explained U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration Area Director Bill McDonald in St. Louis. “Employers are legally responsible for following required safety measures and training workers so they recognize hazards and potentially hazardous situations. Sadly, tragedy has struck again for a worker trapped in a trench, and their family, friends and co-workers are left to grieve.”
OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.
Each June, the National Utility Contractors Assoc. recognizes Trench Safety Month. OSHA collaborates with the association for “Trench Safety Stand-Downs” throughout the month.
OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions. including a safety video.