- The owner of an Iowa construction company was killed last month when the excavation area in which he was working collapsed, according to WQAD.
- Columbus Junction, Iowa authorities said that 52-year-old Anthony Hills, the owner of Hills Construction, was working on a sewer repair when the collapse occurred.
- OSHA is investigating the accident, and authorities said they will release information as it becomes available.
Excavation and trenching operations, along with work performed on scaffolds, roofs and other surfaces high above the ground, remain some of the construction industry's most dangerous activities. This is primarily because cave-ins of just one cubic yard of dirt can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, which is the weight of some cars.
In October 2016, two Boston utility workers were also killed when the 12-foot trench they were in collapsed, broke a water line and flooded the area. As a result, OSHA fined Atlantic Drain Service nearly $1.5 million and cited the company for 18 safety violations in relation to the incident. OSHA said that the company did not provide adequate employee training or basic safeguards for the trench area.
How do contractors know what safety measures to take? OSHA offers free excavation and trenching safety resources, along with basic safety guidelines. According to OSHA, construction companies that have employees working in and around trenches or excavations should:
- Have a competent person inspect them every day before every shift and after any event that could change conditions.
- Keep heavy equipment away from trench or excavation edges and make sure to store materials or excavated dirt at least 2 feet away.
- Include exit mechanisms like ladders in all excavated areas of 4 feet or more in depth and position those means of egress so that they are no more than 25 feet away from workers.
- Have a professional engineer design trenches or excavations more than 20 feet deep and make sure that those 5 feet deep or more have protective systems.
- Locate underground utilities before digging.
- Test for low oxygen or hazardous fumes and gases in excavations deeper than 4 feet.
From June 18 to 23, the National Utility Contractors Association will sponsor its second Trench Safety Stand Down. The event, which is endorsed by OSHA, will provide contractors and their workers training on excavation and trench dangers. The association reported that more than 10,000 workers at more than 800 jobsites participated in last year's stand down.