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Carpenter dies when eight-foot trench wall collapses during sewer pipe replacement.

Michigan State University
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 04MI160, 2005 Apr; :1-7
On October 21, 2004, a 22-year-old male carpenter died when the walls of an eight-foot excavation he was working in collapsed and completely covered him (See Figure 1). A homeowner hired his employer to replace the six-inch clay tile sewer pipe leading from his home to the alley behind the home and garage. The firm was "threading" a new four-inch PVC pipe through the deteriorating existing clay six-inch pipe, and leaving the existing six-inch pipe in place. Prior to the victim's arrival, the employer excavated an approximately eight-foot-deep trench from the home's basement to the homeowner's garage. Once beyond the garage the employer dug another eight-foot excavation from the garage to the alley where the sewer connection was located. The soil conditions in the second excavation were sand/gravel and the angle of repose (maximum permissible slope) for the excavation sides varied from 60-80 degrees. To determine how far away the four-inch PVC pipe was from the sewer line, the victim either kneeled or laid down at the bottom of the excavation. The victim was either still kneeling or lying on the ground when the south side of the excavation collapsed, completely burying him and burying his coworker up to his waist. 911 was called, and at the same time all employees jumped into the excavation to rescue the individuals in the trench. Emergency personnel arrived within minutes, removed the victim and transported him to a local hospital where he died the next day. Recommendations: 1. Employers should ensure when employees are working in excavations that require a supporting system that a supporting system is implemented in accordance with MIOSHA standard requirements. 2. Employers should ensure that a qualified person inspects the excavation, adjacent areas, and supporting systems on an ongoing basis and that the qualified person takes the appropriate measures necessary to protect workers. 3. Employers should design, develop, and implement a comprehensive safety program. 4. Employers should provide workers with training in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the required safe work practices that apply to their work environments. 5. Employers should ensure that equipment is moved away from open trenches when not in use. 6. Employers should develop a trench emergency action plan that describes rescue and medical duties and ensure that all employees are knowledgeable of those procedures.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Work-practices; Work-analysis; Work-environment; Work-operations; Work-performance; Equipment-operators; Machine-operators; Training; Construction-equipment; Construction-workers; Excavation-equipment; Tunneling
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-04MI160; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-521205
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Michigan State University
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division