March 3, 2022
US Department of Labor finds pipelayer exposed to potential
Trench collapses can bury workers in mere seconds
BATAVIA, OH ‒ An employer installing sanitation sewer pipes in a 15-foot-deep trench in Batavia exposed its employees to the hazard of collapsing walls by not installing trench safety boxes.
An investigator with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration observed the worker in the unprotected trench at a residential construction site on Nov. 19, 2021. OSHA also found the pipelayer had to walk the length of the 75-foot trench to enter or exit because the employer failed to provide a safe means of egress.
OSHA cited Lanigan Construction LLC for two willful and four serious safety violations and proposed total penalties of $214,636 to the Burlington, Kentucky, company.
Trench collapses remain among the construction industry's most dangerous hazards. From 2011 and 2018, trench cave-ins led to 203 fatal injuries in the industry – all of them preventable had the required safety measures been taken.
"The company owner and foreman were onsite and allowed the pipelayer to work in hazardous conditions knowingly," explained OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery in Cincinnati. "We cannot stress enough how important it is for employers to review and then implement required safety measures."
OSHA also cited the company for failing to provide personal protective equipment such as hard hats, and for placing soil piles closer than two feet from the edge of the excavation, creating the hazard for soil fall back into the trench.
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 two 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 egress prior to allowing a worker to enter.
The National Utility Contractors Association has declared June 2022 "Trench Safety Month." OSHA will collaborate with the association for "Trench Safety Stand Down" week, June 20-24, 2022.
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Release Number: 22-340-CHI
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