OSHA investigating fatal trench collapse in Ruston

Worker was in an 8-foot-deep excavation to upgrade a sewer lift station when cave-in happened
A worker is rescued from a trench collapse at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C. (Source: WHNS...
A worker is rescued from a trench collapse at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C. (Source: WHNS file photo)
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 3:08 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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RUSTON, La. (KSLA) — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a fatal trench collapse in Ruston.

A worker for Skylan Construction Inc. was in an 8-foot-deep excavation to upgrade a sewer lift station for existing sewer services when the trench collapsed, OSHA reports. The worker was taken to Northern Louisiana Medical Center, the Ruston hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The worker’s death is among the latest examples of trench hazards.

On Oct. 26, an R. Construction Civil LLC employee died while using a gas-powered mechanical compactor inside a 20-feet deep trench to install new sewer lines in a new subdivision near the Brazoria County city of Manvel, Texas. The employee exited the compactor, then the trench wall collapsed, pinning him between the compactor and the wall of the trench, killing him.

In a news release, OSHA also says this is the fourth time since 2015 that R. Construction Civil has been inspected. In each of the three previous inspections, the company received citations for not protecting employees working in excavations.

On Oct. 20, an employee of All Around Underground was in a trench installing pipes for a project for the city of Houston when he became trapped up to his waist when the heavy equipment operator came too close to the spoil pile and caused it to collapse. The employee was freed by his co-workers and transported to the hospital in one of their cars. He died later that evening following surgery.

Far too many workers continue to be injured or killed during excavation work, OSHA says.

In the first half of this year, 22 workers have fallen victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work, surpassing 15 in all of 2021.

Trench collapses, or cave-ins, are more likely than any other excavation-related incident to result in worker fatalities.

It only takes seconds to become buried in thousands of pounds of soil.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” OSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker said in July. “In a matter of seconds, workers can be crushed and buried under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in an unsafe trench. The alarming increase in the number of workers needlessly dying and suffering serious injuries in trenching incidents must be stopped.

“Every one of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers complied with OSHA standards,” he continued. “There simply is no excuse for ignoring safety requirements to prevent trench collapses and cave-ins, and leaving families, friends and co-workers to grieve when the solutions are so well-understood.”

OSHA says trench hazards can be controlled when employers act responsibly, train employees and follow federal standards.

These important steps, the agency added, can keep excavation work safe:

  • Ensure there is a safe way to enter and exit the trench
  • Trenches must have cave-in protection – remember to Slope, Shore, Shield
  • Keep materials away from the edge of the trench
  • Look for standing water or other environmental hazards, and
  • Never enter a trench unless it is properly inspected


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