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A pipe layer working in a trench for a general contractor in Texas, died when a trench wall gave way and he was fully engulfed in sand/dirt.

Texas Workers' Compensation Commission
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 98TX145, 1998 Oct; :1-5
A 45-year-old, male pipe layer (the victim) died when a trench wall collapsed and he was fully engulfed in sand/dirt. Prior to the event the worker was operating a pipe bursting machine in an area of the trench protected by a trench box. For reasons that are unclear, the victim left the protection of the trench box and walked into an area that was not shored. As the victim stood in the unprotected area, a wall gave way and the sand/dirt engulfed the victim. Fellow workers immediately jumped into the trench and attempted to uncover the victim. Firefighters, upon their arrival entered the trench before adequate shoring was in place. As they attempted to rescue the victim a second wall collapsed. The victim was again covered by sand/dirt and two rescuers were trapped up to their knees. It was only after the second cave-in that rescue personnel decided it was not safe to continue rescue operations until adequate shoring was in place. Adequate shoring was put in place and the victim was then removed. The TX FACE Investigator concluded that to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, employers should: 1. Require a competent person remain at the trench as long as a worker is in a trench. 2. Develop a system of successively heavier penalties for violation of safe work practices. 3. Perform a job safety analysis (JSA) to determine what hazards employees may encounter while performing their work. 4. Develop an emergency action plan for employers and emergency responders that describes the rescue and medical duties to follow and insures that all employees and rescue personnel are knowledgeable of those procedures.
Region-6; 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; Safety-personnel; Emergency-response; Construction-industry; Construction-workers
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-98TX145; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-613936
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Texas Workers' Compensation Commission
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division