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A plumber dies after the collapse of a trench wall.

New York State Department of Health/Health Research Incorporated
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 07NY033, 2011 Sep; :1-13
In May 2007, a 46 year old self-employed plumbing contractor (the victim) died when the unprotected trench he was working in collapsed. The victim was an independent plumber subcontracted to install a sewer line connection to the sewer main, part of a general contractor project to install a new sanitary sewer for an existing single family residence. At approximately 12:30 PM on the day of the incident, the workers on site observed the victim walking back toward the residence for parts as they initiated their lunch break. When the victim did not come for his lunch or answer his cell phone, the general contractor and workers starting searching for the victim. The excavation contractor observed that a portion of the trench had collapsed where the victim was installing a sewer tap. The victim was found trapped in the trench under a large slab of asphalt, rock and soil. Three workers immediately climbed down the side of the trench to try to assist the victim. One of the workers called 911 on his cell phone. Police and emergency medical services (EMS) arrived on site within minutes. The EMS members entered the unprotected trench but could not revive the victim. The county trench rescue team recovered the victim's body at approximately seven feet below grade and lifted him from the ditch four hours after the incident. He was pronounced dead at the site. More than 50 rescue workers were involved in the recovery. New York State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (NY FACE) investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers and independent contractors should: 1. Require that all employees, subcontractors, and site workers working in trenches five feet or more in depth are protected from cave-ins by an adequate protection system. 2. Require that a competent person conducts daily inspections of the excavations, adjacent areas, and protective systems and takes appropriate measures necessary to protect workers. 3. Require that all employees and subcontractors have been properly trained in the recognition of the hazards associated with excavation and trenching. In addition, the general contractor (GC) should be responsible for the collection and review of training records and require that all workers employed on the site have received the requisite training to meet all applicable standards and regulations for the scope of work being performed. 4. Require that on a multi-employer work site, the GC should be responsible for the coordination of all high hazard work activities such as excavation and trenching. 5. Require that all employees are protected from exposure to electrical hazards in a trench. Additionally, 1. Employers of law enforcement and EMS personnel should develop trench rescue procedures and should require that their employees are trained to understand that they are not to enter an unprotected trench during an emergency rescue operation. 2. Local governing bodies and codes enforcement officers should receive additional training to upgrade their knowledge and awareness of high hazard work, including excavation and trenching. This skills upgrade should be provided to both new and existing codes enforcement officers. 3. Local governing bodies and codes enforcement officers should consider requiring building permit applicants to certify that they will follow written excavation and trenching plans in accordance with applicable standards and regulations, for any projects involving excavation and trenching work, before the building permits can be approved.
Region-2; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Training; Traumatic-injuries; Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Engineering; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Engineering-controls; Control-technology; Author Keywords: Trench; collapse; cave-in; trenching; excavation; trench protection systems; entrapment; spoils piles
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-07NY033; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-OH-008474
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
New York State Department of Health/Health Research Incorporated
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division