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Safety violation: Worker miraculously survives trench collapse

Trenches are dangerous work areas, and workers who become trapped in them often do not survive. Those who are rescued will likely suffer post-traumatic distress because rescue operations may continue for hours with no guaranteed positive outcome. A 29-year-old man was fortunate to survive a recent trench collapse at a residential construction project in Ohio. It is still unclear whether the collapse was caused by a safety violation.

Upon responding to the initial call, firefighters removed dirt from the six-foot-deep trench into which the worker had fallen. However, water filled up the trench and acted like quicksand, suctioning the workers legs into the mud. Additional help was called in, and about 50 emergency workers took part in the rescue. A tarp was erected over the hole to prevent the trapped worker from suffering hypothermia, and he was reported to be conscious and communicating throughout the two hours it took to extricate him.

Once freed, the man was rushed to a hospital, and it was determined that he was in a remarkably good condition after the ordeal. He was released from the hospital on the following day. Reportedly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration arrived on the scene to investigate the circumstances that led to this life-threatening situation. Investigators will focus on the possible violation of safety regulations.

Workers who have been trapped in collapsed trenches are entitled to pursue compensation for medical expenses -- both immediate and long-term medical costs. Regardless of whether OSHA identifies a safety violation, an injured worker may file a benefits claim with the Ohio workers' compensation program. The victim of this accident was fortunate to be unharmed and able to return to work immediately. In cases in which workers are absent due to recuperation time, the insurance benefits will typically also provide compensation to cover wage losses.

Source: whio.com, "OSHA returns to scene where worker was trapped", Feb. 8, 2016

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