Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry

August 15, 2014


How to dig your own grave

In May, an Oregon OSHA compliance officer stopped at an excavation in Roseburg where two workers were partially buried when a side gave way. They were unable to move until their co-workers (also potential victims) dug them out. (Photos: Scott Haviland)

It may take a few hours to dig a trench, but a cave-in can trap and kill you in seconds. Two cubic yards of soil weigh about 6,000 pounds. If a partial collapse leaves you even knee-deep in dirt, you won’t be able to move. And if a subsequent collapse buries you, your chances of surviving are close to zero. If you are lucky enough to survive, the weight of the soil will likely leave you with serious internal injuries.

Oregon OSHA cited Apollo Drain & Rooter Service of Gresham $5,600 in July for two serious trenching violations after a worker was rescued in a Beaverton collapse. The employee was lying on his side on the bottom of the trench, digging behind the shoring, with his legs and arms outside the shoring when the collapse occurred.

The employees were repairing a broken sewer line in the 11-foot deep trench at the time. The shield system was installed two-feet from the bottom in type C soil. The tabulated data required the shield be installed from the bottom to the top of the excavation for such soil, and in any case, the employee should not have been outside the shield. The workers also dug underneath a nearby paver driveway, which contributed to the collapse.

Trench work does not have to follow a grave-digging scenario, but many workers discount the risks of a collapse or are just not aware of them. Remember:

« Home

Reprinting, excerpting, or plagiarizing any part of this publication is fine with us!

But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.

For information about Oregon OSHA services and answers to technical questions, call (503) 378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, (800) 922-2689.