Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Close But Trench Worker Still Dead

Trench Worker's Death

The article below from The Troy Record, written by Andrew J. Bernstein describes an incident that shows that even if you try to do the best you can and provide the best safe work practices, just one wrong move can be fatal. Apparently the excavation was extended some 30 feet, the sides were not sloped not braced. The apparently entered the improperly shored or sloped ditch, the side collapsed burying the worker.

The contractor is to be commended on their safe work practices, however, this just shows that one let down on one safety procedure can be fatal.

Remember, Think the Safe Way, Work it Safely.

Ditch contractor called stickler for safety

CLIFTON PARK - Steven Fiske, who employed the construction worker killed in a trench collapse on Monday, is known to his employees as being a "nut on safety."

Brian Baker, a Stephentown-based attorney representing Fiske, said his client told him that in 17 years of construction he had never had an employee injured on the job.

"Steve only has seven employees, and he is deeply effect by this, and terribly saddened," said Baker.

On Tuesday, the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office identified the victim in the collapse as Brett R. Peck, 20, of Lennox, Mass. Baker said that Peck had been working for Fiske for several months, and had worked for another contractor prior to working for Fiske.

Terry Harding, assistant area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said the accident was probably avoidable, adding that there appeared to have been violations of the agency's regulations of safe practices for digging trenches.

She added that this was the second trench collapse her office had investigated this year, but the first one that involved a fatality.

John Chavez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, said safe trenching practices can include the use shoring to support walls. Alternately, trench walls can be sloped to stabilize them.

Baker explained that Peck had previously dug a section of trench, and sloped the sides, as his supervisor instructed him to do.

"The young man dug another ten to 15 feet and was supposed to slope that too, those were his clear instruction, but it appears he did not do that. It appears to us that he was aware that the soil was loosed more than you would ordinarily like," Baker said.

The ditch was about three feet wide, Baker said, and had been dug using an excavator in preparation for laying a 50-foot perforated drainage pipe. Fire officials said on Monday that the trench was between six and eight feet deep.

Although Baker said Pecks' reason for going into the trench was not clear, he may have been preparing to connect a ten-foot section of pipe when the walls collapsed.

Saratoga County Coroner John DeMartino, who examined Peck's body, said the cause of death was asphyxiation.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff's office released further details of the rescue, noting that first responders attempted to excavate Peck with their hands, and succeeded in uncovering his shoulder, at which time it was clear that he had died.

Jonesville Fire Chief Lou Pasquarell said at that point the decision to call in specialized equipment and personnel from the Stratton Air National Guard, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and Colonie Trench and Urban rescue was made to avoid placing emergency workers in an unsafe situation.

It took several hours to extricate Peck's body.

Harding said an investigation of the accident would include analyzing the soil content, protective measures taken by construction workers, and whether the trench had been inspected by a competent person.

She said the Fiske had been cooperating with the investigation, although he was not at the construction site when it collapsed.

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