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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 96MN073, 1996 Dec; :1-4
A 20-year-old construction worker died of injuries he sustained from a trench cave-in. The worker was at the bottom of the trench at the time it collapsed. Workers were using the trench to install a new city water line. During this type of work, a backhoe is used to dig a trench prior to laying the new water line. Completion of the project required installing 12,000 feet of 12 inch diameter ductile iron water pipe. On the day of the incident workers were re-excavating around an area of the water supply line that had been laid 3 days earlier. They were doing this in order to tighten two bolts at a bend in the line that had not been tightened at the time of installation. The trench was located near a highway in a filled area of land that was mainly made up of sand and silt. After the cave-in, the trench measured 44 feet wide by 47 feet long and 8 feet deep. A trench box was located near the incident site but sloping the trench was used as a safety precaution rather than using the trench box. Three workers were standing in the area of the cave-in when it occurred. Two of the workers were buried up to their chests, but were not injured. The worker that was fatally injured was completely buried. A coworker not involved in the cave-in made a 911 call to emergency rescue personnel. Rescue personnel responded within minutes and used shovels to aid the backhoe operator in locating and freeing the buried victim. The victim was freed and taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. 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-in 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-96MN073; 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