Trench Collapse Deaths Increasing Sharply This Year

"Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year - an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Citing a 33-year-old Ohio worker's death several months ago, OSHA noted that trench collapse fatalities have more than doubled this year.

The agency has cited an Ohio company after the worker died in June 2016 as he was digging soil out of the 12-foot trench in Washington Township, when the trench walls around him collapsed. As of Nov. 17, he was one of 23 workers killed in trench collapses this year, with 12 others being hurt in such collapses; the 23 deaths are the highest fatality total for this category in at least five years.

Trench collapses are rarely survivable because a single cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, OSHA explains. In 2012, there were eight trench fatalities and two injuries, but the number rose in 2013 to 15 fatalities and two injuries, with 2014 recording 11 fatalities and 13 injuries. In 2015 there were 11 fatalities and 16 injuries.

"Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year - an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

The agency's investigation found that the employer, KRW Plumbing LLC, did not provide trench cave-in protection for its employees. OSHA cited the company for two willful and two serious safety violations on Nov. 8 and has proposed $274,359 in penalties in the case.

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