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Construction worker dies after being buried in a trench that caved in.

Minnesota Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 96MN059, 1996 Oct; :1-5
A 46-year-old construction worker died of injuries he sustained when the trench he was working in caved in. Workers were using the trench to make a water line connection between the well and the water supply line that extended through the concrete footings of a new house. Copper pipe was used to make this waterline connection. On the day of the incident, the connection between the water supply line in the basement and the copper pipe was made. In order for the copper pipe to reach the well, copper pipe from a new roll had to be spliced to the original piece. A coworker of the victim was standing outside of the trench watching the victim splice the copper pipe in the trench. The coworker noticed the victim heading toward the ladder when the victim suddenly turned and headed the other way. A portion of one entire wall of the trench caved in from top to bottom and buried the victim. The coworker ran to get a shovel from a truck located at the scene. The coworker heard some mumbling and started digging but was unable to locate the victim. The coworker then ran to the backhoe that was parked near the trench and radioed other coworkers for help. Two coworkers working at another job site arrived at the incident site approximately 5 to 8 minutes after the initial call for help was placed. Upon their arrival, the initial coworker had located the victim's shoulder. The three coworkers uncovered the victim's head and continued to try to free him. Emergency rescue personnel arrived and pronounced the victim dead before he was completely removed from the trench. After the victim was pronounced dead, the backhoe was used to further widen the trench. This was done to reduce the risk of rescue personnel being buried by another cave-in while the victim was being removed. MN FACE investigators concluded that, in order to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, the following guidelines should be followed: 1. employers should ensure that employees working in trenches are protected from cave-ins by an adequate protection system designed in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.652; 2. employers should ensure that excavations are inspected by a competent person (1) prior to start of work and as needed throughout a shift to look for evidence of any situation that could result in possible cave-in; and 3. employers should design, develop, and implement a comprehensive safety program.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Safety-programs
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-96MN059; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507283
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Minnesota Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division