On October 22, 2008 a 20-year-old man from Lenox, Mass. was working at a construction site occupying an excavated trench.  No trench box was being used and the 8 foot deep, 2 to 3 foot wide trench he was standing in collapsed onto him, burying him and causing him to suffocate to death. The side of the trench that caved in on him was sand and clay. The trench was designed to be where drain pipes would be laid for someone's home. Although the construction owner had a good safety record and cared very much for his workers, his caring mattered little when this 20-year-old died on that job site.

Question: So how could this tragedy have been avoided?  

Answer: A trench box.

A trench box would have prevented this accident. OSHA requires use of a trench box in this instance. Here is what 29 CFR 1926.652 states regarding protecting workers in excavations.

Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR) - Table of Contents



• Part Number:


• Part Title:

Safety and Health Regulations for Construction

• Subpart:


• Subpart Title:


• Standard Number:


• Title:

Requirements for protective systems.





Protection of employees in excavations.


Each employee in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system designed in accordance with paragraph (b) or (c) of this section except when:


Excavations are made entirely in stable rock; or


Excavations are less than 5 feet (1.52 m) in depth and examination of the ground by a competent person provides no indication of a potential cave-in.


Protective systems shall have the capacity to resist without failure all loads that are intended or could reasonably be expected to be applied or transmitted to the system.


Simply put any employee working five feet or more below grade in an excavated area must be protected by a shielding system that prevents exactly what occurred in this case; a cave in that traps the construction worker.

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