Bartow County, Georgia – The construction site in Bartow County off I-75 exit 296 experienced a trench collapse; then a worker fell 20 feet and was buried. Firefighters worked furiously to save the man’s life, but couldn’t get to him. The job was making way for a new sewer line. The incident was thirty feet down and forty feet under the roadway, where the man was trapped.
This isn’t rocket science, its dirt work. You follow the safety rules and no one gets hurt, you don’t and someone can die. It’s really that simple. So why are the rules for safety not followed when it involves trench work?
Follow the link to see the video with Stacy Elgin reporting for Fox 5 News.
While we are talking about tunnels and how easily they can collapse let me draw your attention to tunnels in the Middle East. While researching this story I ran across a truly fascinating story about underground tunnels as a way to survive. There is an entire commercial enterprise on digging, running goods through and in owning the underground tunneling system in the Palestinian territories.
“Since Israel imposed its siege on Gaza after Hamas won democratic legislative elections in January 2006, the number of Palestinians tied to some segment of the tunnel industry has grown in direct proportion to the increasing lack of availability of raw materials and basic necessities, including food, fuel and medicine. Palestinian sources estimate that some 6,000 people are employed as diggers in the hundreds of tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza-Egyptian border.
But tunnels are not the romantic passageways portrayed in Hollywood films about World War II or Vietnam. You can die simply upon entering one—as a result of the tunnel collapsing, of suffocation from the tear gas lobbed in by Egyptian authorities, or from electrocution caused by the willy-nilly wiring jerry-rigged to provide lighting and ventilation. You can die simply by getting lost in the maze, or from breathing in the unstable sand. If you’re lucky, your body will be found and given a proper burial.
Like the toll houses of a bygone era, Gaza’s tunnels are owned by individuals who collect fees for their use. One such owner is Abu Khaled, a father of seven. Although he doesn’t dare traverse the 30- to 45-foot tunnel himself for fear it might collapse, Abu Khaled is among a growing number of tunnel entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia corridor, Rafah’s no-man’s-land between Gaza and Egypt. Others involved in the industry include diggers, runners, smugglers and merchants.
Tunnel owners earn $300 for each 100 pounds of goods smuggled in. (Smuggling animals for Gaza’s zoo can net up to $3,000 each!) With this revenue Abu Khaled supports 20 workers: diggers who do the dirty work, and runners who transport the goods. “
Hard to believe this can be the way people are living in this world. What is harder to believe is that the United States spent $28 Million coming up with a tunnel detection system. We can’t get contractors to spend the money for renting tunnel wall supports but we can spend $28 Million on equipment to locate them in the Middle East.
“Under pressure from Washington, Egypt recently escalated its efforts to shut down the tunnels, destroying scores in the past months and fast-tracking the acquisition and implementation of a new $28 million U.S.-made tunnel detection system. Israeli sources confirm that U.S. experts are working with the Egyptians to find and expose the tunnels along the Philadelphia corridor.
Providing the means for Gaza’s businesses to remain operating is a most lucrative form of smuggling. One tunnel owner who just a few months ago could afford nothing and used donkey carts for transportation now has enough money to afford luxury jeeps and merchandise for his wife.
The tunnels are not only used to supply Gazans with food, clothing, medicine, fuel and spare parts, however. They also make it possible to reunite families who have become separated when their non-Palestinian spouses find themselves prevented from reaching their husbands, wives or children as a result of the Israeli-imposed border closures. In desperation, they pay handsomely to be smuggled in or out of Gaza. One smuggler admits to having received $1,000 to reunite a European wife with her Palestinian husband and children living in Gaza.”
Is it only me or do other people see a failure of logic and sound economic policy in all of this?
Back to trench safety in America. Look at this video clip about trench safety. It will help you understand the concept.
Construction Safety - Excavator trench servicing and backfilling
OSHA has plenty of information available on trench and excavation safety.
Trenching and Excavation – by OSHA
The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring. Additional hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines; and underground utilities, such as natural gas. The following references aid in recognizing and controlling some of the hazards associated with trenching and excavation.
Special Emphasis: Trenching and Excavation. OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-069 [CPL 2.69], (1985, September 19). Establishes a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the programmed safety inspection of trenching and excavation operations.
Working Outdoors in Warm Climates. OSHA Fact Sheet, (2005, September), 26 KB PDF, 2 pages.
OSHA offers a pamphlet on trench and excavation safety. Here are the warnings.
Trench Safety - OSHA 3197-04N-04
• 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.
Competent Person 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.
Like I said it’s not rocket science. Construction workers, be smart, be safe and don’t risk your life for a boss and company that are too stupid and greedy to take the right safety measures. Know how to do the job the right way and if the boss or company asks you to do it wrong, call OSHA. If they fire you call a lawyer. Better to make the OSHA call then your wife calling the morgue.