One fatality is Ten too many as the vast majority of these uncalled for deaths is the lack of proper planning, lack of a Competent Person and just plain "not placing brains in gear before placing trencher in motion." I hope readers will attain necessary information that is available either from this company or other sources to stop these useless fatalities.
Use the Horse Sense Approach to all Safety Related Situations.
Trench expert offers safety precautions
It's inevitable that a ditch will collapse, he says, so be prepared
All ditches eventually will cave in, an expert on ditch and trench safety said Wednesday.
"The only question is the timing," said David Dow, vice president, secretary and treasurer of Trench Safety and Equipment, which has offices in Memphis and North Little Rock.
Dow's firm rents bracing and blocking equipment to shore-up the walls of ditches and trenches and also provides training for utility companies involved with trenching.
He did not go to the site of the deadly cave-in in Horn Lake's Holly Hills subdivision Tuesday night, but he said the cave-in there was similar to a number of incidents in the Mid-South over the years.
"Trenching is one of the deadliest components of construction work," he said. "At one time, there were as many as 400 deaths attributed to trenches annually.
"In 1990, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) published rules regarding trench safety," he said.
Among the requirements:
Having a competent person on hand at all times when people are working in the trench. The designated person would have authority to stop unsafe acts or to order workers out of the trench at any time.
Removing or blocking and bracing any surface encumbrance -- any item on the ground surface that might fall into the trench or lead to a cave-in.
Classifying the soil type. Some soil types are more likely to give way than others.
All trenches deeper than five feet must have safety equipment in place.
"The safety precautions could be sloping the trench away from the main opening to prevent a cave-in; using a shoring system to hold up the walls of the trench, or what is called a trench shield -- a safety box that would protect the workers even if the walls of the trench collapsed," he said.
Dow, 57, who has been working in the area of trench safety since 1984, said trench construction accidents still cause up to 100 deaths annually.
"Cave-ins are predictable. Every trench ultimately will cave in," he said. "It's just a question of timing."
-- William C. Bayne: (662) 996-1408