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OSHA says most trench collapse fatalities preventable

Federal authorities expressed their concern about the number of preventable workplace accidents that occur every year. Particular attention is being paid to trench collapse accidents after the death of a young Missouri father in December. Authorities at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration say compliance with safety regulations can prevent these senseless deaths.

Reportedly, the man was using a backhoe to excavate a trench when he got out of the machine and entered the trench that was 12 feet deep. The trench box that was supposed to be placed in the trench to prevent the walls from collapsing was sitting nearby — but not in the trench. Without that protection, the walls collapsed and buried the worker under tons of soil.

Recovering the body of the man took firefighters many hours. Reportedly, the deceased worker was experienced in trench work and his reason for entering the unsecured trench remains a mystery. OSHA says more than 20 lives were lost in trench collapses in 2016 — double the number of such deaths recorded in 2015. Safety officers say the weight of one cubic yard of soil is similar to that of a small car, and when a trench wall collapses, several cubic yards of soil will crush an unprotected worker.

After this fatal trench collapse, the surviving family members of this Missouri worker will likely have to cope with unanticipated expenses related to end-of-life arrangements. The sudden loss of income can also cause financial challenges, and the family can seek assistance through the workers’ compensation insurance program. By filing death benefits claims, the dependents of the deceased worker will likely receive coverage for these financial losses.

Source: kansascity.com, “‘Entirely preventable’ trench collapse deaths frustrate safety agency”, Mike Hendricks, Dec. 28, 2016