Utility Contractor

MAR-APR 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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SAFETY MANAGEMENT Buried Alive: Joe's Story B uried alive. Alone. Screaming you know no one can hear. You wonder if the rescu- ers can get to you in time. You can't move a muscle—not even your fingers. It is tough for you to breathe. And breathing is getting more dif- ficult with each shallow breath because the dirt is crushing you. You have been doing this type of work for years and odds were that it would never happen to you. You may be asking yourself why you didn't listen to the safety manager who told you never to go into an unprotected trench. And now as the last few minutes of your life pass you by, you think about your wife and kids, your parents and close friends and how much you would like to tell them you love them. But it is too late. How Could This Happen? The situation started off with someone yelling at Joe to look out because the trench was caving in, but it was too late. Joe didn't have time to turn and run before the dirt in the trench wall fell and buried him. The crew was panicking and one of the workers jumped in the trench to help even though he knew not to do that. But was too late, there was nothing he could do and yelled for help to get out of the trench before it buried him too. But as he was climbing out, the other trench wall caved in too, just missing him. The workers called 911 and within 5 minutes the fire de- partment's rescue team was onsite making an assessment of what needed to be done to try to save Joe. It had been about 6 minutes, and they thought Joe had probably already passed out. The rescue team couldn't use an excavator because it could tear Joe apart, so they had to dig by hand. They started to dig and shore the trench but it was a slow process. Time was critical. Firefighters from all around the county arrived to help, but they all knew situations like this are often fatal. The firemen knew that it would probably be a recovery, not a rescue, but they tried anyway. The owner of the company arrived onsite and was very con- cerned about Joe. Unfortunately, it was late for him to take actions to keep Joe safe. He kept asking himself why he did not listen to his safety manager and provide a trench protec- tive system (sloping, shoring, or shield) as required by OSHA. When OSHA showed up, it did not take long to figure out there was no competent person onsite and the company did not provide a trench protective system. The contractor and his company were facing huge penalties and possibly criminal charges. Don't Let This Happen to You or Your Employees Why would any worker take a chance of being buried? Workers should be trained and informed of the potential haz- ards and what they should do to protect themselves. There's no reason that construction workers should have to their place lives on the line to install a pipe or cable. OSHA has implemented regulations for a reason. Employers must follow them. Why would a company owner not insist that workers use trench protective systems whenever entering a trench? Trench protective systems are cheap to rent for companies that don't need them every day. And if they are needed every day, the company should invest in the systems they need. Companies should also train their crew leaders and foremen to be com- 34 Utility Contractor | March/April 2018 OSHA requires every excavation 5 ft or more in depth to be protected by

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