Death and injury from mishaps in trenches spiked this year after a multi-year downward trend. More construction workers died in trenches this year than in any of the previous five years.
“Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year – an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”
Nationwide, 23 workers were killed by collapsing trenches this year, compared to 11 killed in 2015. Another 12 workers suffered injury. Trench collapses injured three workers in metro St. Louis so far this year.
According to news reports, the St. John Fire Department responded to a report of a trench collapse at an MSD construction site in north St. Louis County on April 14. They pulled a worker out of a trench, after which she was taken to a hospital with non-life injuries.
On May 3, St. Louis firefighters rescued a man from an 18-foot-deep trench in St. south Louis after a collapse trapped him for almost five hours.
And on July 15, St. Louis firefighters rescued a construction worker from a 20-foot-deep trench on another MSD construction site after mud and dirt buried him up to his waist. He was trapped for an hour.
In a sense, all three of those workers were lucky. According to OSHA, trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs. – the weight of a small automobile – giving a worker in a trench little chance of survival when walls of soil collapse.