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Worker Fatality Rate Highest in 7 Years!

Friday, April 22, 2016

According to latest reports, the U.S. workplace fatality rate increased in 2014 with the highest death rate in seven years. That is the first time it has done so since 2010, according to finalized data released April 21 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The revised rate for 2014 increased to 3.4 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers for a total of 4,821 fatalities.

"This is the highest number of workers killed on the job since 2008," BLS stated.

2014 BLS Fatality Statistics:
• Private construction industry had 899, the highest since 2008.
• Oil and gas extraction industries had 144, which is the most ever recorded.
• Workers 55 and older took a sharp increase with 1,691 deaths.

Source: SAFETY+HEALTH Newsletter (4/22/16) published by the National Safety Council. 

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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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Delay on CS Construction Enforcement

Monday, July 13, 2015

Washington, D.C. – In response to requests from the construction industry, OSHA is delaying full enforcement of its recently promulgated Confined Spaces in Construction Standard to allow employers additional time to comply with the rule.

The final rule, issued May 4, has requirements similar to the Permit Required Confined Spaces Standard for general industry, including employee training and atmospheric monitoring.

The new construction rule is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 3. Between that date and Oct. 2, construction employers will not be cited for violating the new standard if they are making a "good faith" effort to comply and are in compliance with training requirements under the new or old standard.

According to OSHA, good faith efforts include scheduling training for employees, ordering necessary equipment to comply with the new standard, and taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined spaces.

Nearly 800 annual serious injuries will be prevented under the new rule, OSHA estimates.

For more detailed information regarding this ruling see our previous post here.

Source: National Safety Council
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Incident: Alaska Calls for Increased Focus on Trench Safety

Monday, July 06, 2015

In response to the death of a 23-year-old construction worker in a trenching incident in Anchorage, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is highlighting the importance of training workers on safe trench work and excavations.

State regulations require employers to ensure workers are trained to recognize and avoid hazards related to any trench work or excavations in which the depth of the site is at least 4 feet. Employers also must make sure workers adequately enter and exit trenches, in addition to taking proper measures for shoring and sloping protection.

An Anchorage Fire Department search-and-rescue team, police and medics responded to the incident shortly after 1 p.m. on June 16, 2015.

The construction worker had been working on a sewer pipe in a trench that measured roughly 7 feet deep by 15 feet across when it collapsed and buried him. His co-workers tried to extricate him and did get him out of the trench, but his injuries were just too severe. The 23-year-old victim died at the scene.

OSHA has launched an investigation into the workplace accident according to a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Sources: National Safety Council Newsletter ( and Alaska Dispatch News (
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