HOPE HULL, ALA–Two excavation workers were trapped several feet underground when the walls of a trench they were constructing caved in Wednesday afternoon.
Heavy Rescue 75 personnel (Lieutenant Donald Pickens, Sergeant Tommy Burton, Firefighter Eric S. Williams and Firefighter Gregory Lowery), Engine Company 3(Lieutenant Herman Dudley, Sergeant Johnathan M. Brown, Firefighter Michael White, and Firefighter Devon Jones), and Truck Company 45 (Lieutenant Adrian Thrasher, Sergeant Robert Hill and Firefighter Joshua Clemons) rescued two trapped workers from a cave in. Assistant Fire Chief Kelly Gordon Senior was the Incident Commander of the operation. Source: Montgomery Fire/Rescue”]
According to WSFA News, the workers were in a trench installing concrete fittings for a cell phone tower when the walls of the trench caved in and buried them.
The Montgomery Fire Department responded to the accident, which occurred in south Montgomery County off of Hargrove Road near I-65. One man was pulled from the dirt after several minutes and airlifted to a hospital for treatment. His injuries are considered serious but not life-threatening.
The second man was in a rebar beam cage about 12 feet underground with no access to air. Rescuers expressed concern about the depth of the trench and rainy weather impeding efforts to free the man, but they were able to pull him from the ditch alive later in the day.
According to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), excavation and trenching work are among the most hazardous of constructions operations, and trench work continues to be one of the leading causes of on-the-job injury and death in the U.S. because of the potential for trench wall collapse and cave-ins. Other hazards that make excavation and trenching extremely dangerous are falling potential, falling loads, and accidents involving heavy equipment and dangerous atmospheres.
“One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car,” an OSHA trench safety advisory says. “An unprotected trench is an early grave. Do not enter an unprotected trench.”
According to safety regulators, trench cave-ins usually occur because the trench walls haven’t been adequately or properly shored up. Soil type, slope, climate, and a number of other factors must be considered to properly protect excavation workers from being buried alive.
OSHA provides a number of materials aimed at improving excavation and trenching safety, including technical manuals, safety posters, state standards and guidelines, and other items, most of which are available online.