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 2005-04, 2007 Aug; :1-7
On December 31, 2004, a 32-year-old Hispanic laborer (the victim) was killed when the side wall of an eight-foot-deep trench collapsed. The victim was a member of a five-man crew that had been contracted to prepare an excavation for a concrete footing that would support the concrete basement for a new single-family, private residence in a housing development. The crew consisted of the company owner, a Hispanic crew leader who spoke little English, and three Hispanic laborers that spoke only Spanish. The depth of the excavation ranged from approximately two to three feet; however, due to a change in the building plans that included the addition of an additional garage stall, the crew had reached a backfilled area where the depth of the trench reached eight feet when the incident occurred. The company owner was operating the mini-excavator until he had to leave the site to run some errands. When he left, he instructed the crew leader to operate the mini-excavator. As the crew leader was operating the mini-excavator, the victim entered the trench at the shallow end and walked to the deep end to clean loose dirt from the floor with a shovel. As the crew leader yelled for him to exit the trench, the side wall of the trench began to collapse. The victim tried to run to the shallow end, but was covered up. The crew tried to dig the victim out while a nearby homeowner called 911. Upon arrival, fire department personnel ordered the workers out of the trench. They then installed trench bracing, entered the trench, and removed the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should: 1. ensure that a competent person conducts daily inspection of excavations, adjacent areas, and protective systems and takes appropriate measures necessary to protect workers; 2. ensure that workers are protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system; 3. develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive safety program, and provide safety training in language(s) and literacy level(s) of workers, which includes training in hazard recognition and the avoidance of unsafe conditions; and, 4. ensure that only qualified rescue personnel who have assumed responsibility for rescue operations and site safety should attempt rescue operations.