November 21, 2016
OSHA investigates trench collapse after 28-year-old worker
becomes 13th worker injured while working underground in 2016
Amid alarming rise in excavation-related deaths, agency calls industry to action
SEVEN HILLS, Ohio - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Cleveland office has opened an investigation after learning a 28-year-old employee of W.F. Hann & Sons was injured while installing sewer lines in an 8-foot trench in Seven Hills on Nov. 19, 2016.
While working in the trench at approximately 1:30 p.m., the soil suddenly shifted, and the trench walls around him collapsed - burying him in an estimated 14,000 pounds of dirt. The force of the soil was so great that it shattered a piece of 4 x 8 inch thick strand board the company used for shoring. A co-worker dug him out of the trench quickly and saved the man's life. The Seven Hills Fire Department responded to the 911 call and transported the employee to Metro Hospital. His condition is unknown.
This incident marks the 13th time in 2016 that a worker was injured in a trench collapse. In total, collapses have killed 23 workers since January.
In a related incident, OSHA reported that an agency inspector saw a worker in a 15-foot deep unprotected trench in Berea today and ensured he was removed from danger. The agency has opened an investigation of the man's employer - Trax Construction Co. of Wickliffe - as a result.
"The employers of both of these men are just lucky that neither of these men were killed while working in a trench without adequate safety protections. Nationwide, trench deaths have more than doubled since 2015 - an alarming trend that must be halted," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's Area Director in Cleveland. "Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions - including installing trench boxes, shoring and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse."
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 trench.
The agency last inspected Cleveland-based W.F. Hann & Sons in 1999. The company was issued three citations related to a lack of fall protection, training, and frequent inspections. Trax Construction Co. was last inspected in 2014 and was issued a citation related to lack of adequate cave-in protection.
Learn more about the OSHA inspection process here.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Cleveland office at 216-447-4194.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Release Number: 16-2213-CHI
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