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On March 8, 2011, OSHA's Rick Burns was performing a worksite inspection on a trench being dug by Trimat Construction in Mercerville, Ohio, when he directed an employee to exit the trench believing collapse was imminent. Within five minutes, it did and could have buried the worker under six to seven feet of soil. "The actions of the compliance officer likely saved this worker's life," said David Wilson, assistant area director in the Columbus area office. "Cave-ins are a leading cause of worker fatalities during excavations." OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. The employee was working in a trench at a depth greater than 10 feet without cave-in protection. OSHA's investigation is ongoing. The agency will determine why the job was being done in this fashion and what, if any, violations occurred.
Workers were ordered out of the trench (left) just moments before a portion collapsed (right), avoiding possible injury or loss of life.