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Six Egregious Violations filed by OSHA for Houston Trench Incident

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

One minute a worker was working in the 8-foot trench below ground. The next, he was being buried in it. His co-workers came to his rescue, digging him out with their bare hands. Moments after they pulled the injured man to safety, the unprotected trench collapsed again. His injuries were serious and led to his hospitalization.

What’s more, the man's Houston-area employer knew the Richmond, Texas, excavation site was dangerous, but failed to protect its workers.

OSHA has since cited the company for 16 safety violations, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.

"For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. In addition to the willful violations, the company was cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe means to get in and out of the excavation for workers or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.

"Trench cave-ins are preventable," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "There are long-established, basic precautions. They're not new, and they're not secret. This company knew its trenches weren't safe, but still put its workers in harm's way."

OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

(Excerpts, photos and videos from a story by Safety News Alert)
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Incident: Two Workers Buried in Trench Collapse

Monday, August 03, 2015

Here’s another reminder of how quickly a trench can turn deadly and how important it is to be prepared. Is your rescue team prepared for such an incident?

When firefighters arrived at the scene of a construction trench collapse near Covington (Louisiana) back in May, they could see two pairs of feet sticking out of the wet, sandy clay at the bottom of the 10-foot-deep trench. But only one voice was calling for help.

The frantic rescue effort that followed, interrupted by safety concerns and bad weather, would bring one man safely to the surface. His co-worker did not survive.

Firefighters immediately jumped in and began trying to dig the men out from nearly a foot of dirt that had tumbled down on top of them from the sides of the trench. But as the operation dragged on, they realized that being in the trench could compound the danger. The depth of the hole combined with the sandy clay made for a perilous work situation. Moreover, huge piles of excavated dirt loomed over the side of the trench, adding to fears of another collapse.

The weather didn’t help. During the rescue, a rainstorm drenched the area and then was replaced by baking sun.

To lower the risk, firefighters had to delay rescue efforts while others brought in sheets of plywood to reinforce the sides of the trench. A ladder was laid across the top and another was lowered to the bottom. Firemen tossed water down to their comrades, and a large vacuum truck was brought in to suction out debris.

Two hours after the firefighters arrived, the surviving worker — stripped of his clothes except for a pair of blue and red striped shorts — was placed into a rescue basket and lifted slowly to the lip of the trench. He was immediately tended to by emergency medical technicians, who transferred him to a stretcher.

The injured worker, who has not been named, was alert throughout the rescue and was able to speak with the men working to free him, officials said.

But there were fears that his medical condition could deteriorate quickly after he was pulled from the dirt. The weight of the soil could have been acting like a “big tourniquet,” said St. Tammany Coroner Charles Preston, an emergency physician. In that type of situation, he said, when the pressure caused by a heavy weight is removed, the flow of blood throughout an injured body can cause severe problems.

In this case, however, Preston said the worker was doing as well as could be expected, adding that his belly was soft, which indicated that the weight of the earth had not prevented his blood from flowing while he was buried.

Once the worker was taken away, the operation turned from rescue to recovery. The body of a 24-year-old was removed about 5 p.m., after more than four hours of being buried in the trench.

Sheriff Jack Strain, briefing reporters after the first worker had been removed, said his office would investigate whether all proper safety protocols had been followed at the site. Strain noted the presence of three trench boxes — large metal frames with two panel sides connected by thick bars — stacked just feet from where the collapse occurred but said there were none at the cave-in site itself.

“I don’t know why those weren’t in the ground, but those things will be looked into,” Strain said. State agencies may also investigate the incident, he said.

(Excerpts, photos and videos from a story in The New Orleans Advocate by Faimon A. Roberts III - click to read full story)


Preparation is Key

Is your agency or rescue team prepared for this type of incident? Who will be responsible for performing the rescue, and how quickly can they respond? Do they have the proper equipment and training to do the job while protecting themselves?

Also, do you have the availability of advanced life support personnel who can respond to the scene? Injuries sustained from trench incidents can be more severe (internal) than just bruising and broken bones. Crush Syndrome/Compartmentalization Syndrome can kill a “rescued” victim!

Keep in mind, someone was responsible for acting as the Competent Person at this site, or at least, should have been. Are your supervisors properly trained to identify potential trench hazards? If you use contractors, do you assume they have the proper training and equipment while they are working on your site?

Don’t underestimate the dangers of trench work – or the dangers posed to emergency response personnel. Make sure your people are prepared! Learn the latest trench safety and rescue techniques at our upcoming Trench Rescue Course at the Roco Training Center, September 9-11, 2015.

 

 

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Watch and Learn at Challenge 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Take in all the action and discover what your team may be missing! With Roco Rescue Challenge 2015 right around the corner, we wanted to share some of the benefits of attending as an observer. Here’s what one of our observers had to say about last year’s event…

"You just can't get everything you need out of a classroom. Coming out and seeing the teams performing different techniques and scenarios allowed us to gain insight that will be used to kick-start our team."

Don't miss the rescue team event of the year! 

Call us at 800-647-7626 and reserve your ticket today.

Rescue teams from across the country will participate in realistic confined space rescue exercises designed by Roco’s top instructors. And, although Challenge is more of a learning event than a competition, trophies will be awarded to the teams with top scores for individual skills proficiency and the infamous “Yellow Brick Road” rescue-relay scenario.

Roco Rescue Challenge meets the annual rescue practice requirements of 1910.146 while providing realistic practice drills in all six confined space types. Written documentation will be provided to each team following the event.

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Do You Need Roco's Industrial Rescue III Training?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"If you've been through a Roco class, whether it was Roco certification to NFPA 1006, or OSHA compliance training, our new Industrial Rescue III course can be the next step for you and your team. This course will challenge students (and rescue teams) to solve real-world confined space rescue scenarios building on previously learned skills, while introducing new techniques for more complex confined space incidents. 

This scenario-based training will serve as annual compliance documentation (NFPA & OSHA) for confirming rescue capabilities and skills proficiency in various confined space and elevated evolutions. So, if you’re looking for the next step for you or your team, check out Roco’s Industrial Rescue III  for advanced confined space rescue training!" states, Dennis O'Connell, Chief Instructor and Director of Training.
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OPPD Employees Go to Great Heights to Train for Rescues

Monday, July 20, 2015

OPPD (Omaha Public Power District) rescue team members were put to the test by the elements and Roco instructors during a recent rescue class at their facility. During the week-long class, they experienced high temperatures and rain - all while working at varying heights! However, it provided to be a great learning opportunity for the team. “The training as a whole was excellent, top-notch.” quoted Jeremy Kellner, a senior I/C technician at NOS and leader of the rope rescue team.

Here's a story about the training that appeared on the company's website. Roco instructors for the class were Troy Gardner, Robert Kauer, and Dominic Velasquez. 

It's been our pleasure to work with OPPD for the past ten years. To read the full story click here

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