On excavation sites, what may appear to be relatively small risks can in fact be incredibly dangerous. According to OSHA, just one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds — that's as much as a small car! Therefore, contractors working in trenches that may seem shallow relative to their height, are actually at significant risk of being crushed if a collapse were to occur.
That's exactly what happened to a 21-year-old plumbing worker killed in an excavation collapse on just his third week of work last September. After an investigation of the worksite, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the man's employer in violation of nine health and safety standards that contributed to the conditions surrounding their employee's death.
OSHA inspectors found the company, A Rooter Man of Pittsburgh, regularly exposed its employees to cave-in hazards while they worked in excavations deeper than five feet. The fatal September incident took place in an 11-foot trench where a sewer line was being installed. Plus, the agency found the company must have known about the trenches' unstable soil, as its owner typically serves as the excavator on the job.
"A Rooter Man of Pittsburgh knowingly took unacceptable risks in an excavation, which led to a tragic and preventable death of a young man with his whole future ahead," said Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA's Pittsburgh Area Office, in a statement released by the agency. "Common-sense safety practices would have prevented this trench from turning into a worker's grave."
The contractor now faces $174,000 in proposed penalties.
To ensure your workforce is adequately protected from the hazards of your worksite, consider partnering with a safety contractor like Safety Advantage. Our health and safety training programs can empower your safety managers and ensure your company remains up to date on the latest OSHA regulations. For more information, or to sign up for a class near you, contact us today!