A worker at a plant nursery in Mobile, Alabama was airlifted to a hospital after a trench he was working in collapsed on top of him and buried him under tons of dirt. The man later died of his injuries.
According to Mobile’s WPMI, the trench collapse occurred around 11:30 Monday morning at Flowerwood Nursery in Mobile. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent officials there to investigate the circumstances of the fatal accident.
Officials said workers at the nursery were digging a trench to lay water lines when the walls of the trench caved in on one of the workers, completely submerging him in dirt.
When Mobile Fire-Rescue arrived at the scene, they found other workers had partially dug the man out; He was still trapped in the six-foot-deep trench about waist deep, officials told WPMI. It took rescuers about an hour and a half to free the worker from the trench, WKRG News 5 Mobile reported.
“All we did was get him out; we treated him while he was in the trench,” Steve Huffman with Mobile Fire-Rescue told WPMI. “Got him out as quick as we could and loaded him and turned care over to life flight.”
Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations, which is itself consistently ranked as the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Federal regulations require employers to take specific measures that will protect workers from deadly trench cave-ins, such as sloping the trench wall away from the excavation site, using trench boxes, installing supports to prevent soil movement, and the creating of safe access and exits with ladders, steps, and ramps.
According to OSHA, 15 workers have died in trench collapses in the U.S. as of June 1, 2017. The deadly trench collapse toll could be significantly higher by the year’s end. Last year, 23 workers died in trench collapses, more than twice the number who died in 2015.
“[This] alarming and unacceptable trend must be halted. There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant labor secretary for OSHA, said in a statement last year.