Oregon FACE Toolbox Talk Guide- Trench collapse

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Oregon FACE Program , Oregon Health and Science University

Summary Statement

The Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program (OR FACE), a NIOSH sponsored program, developed this toolbox talk about a 47-year-old construction worker who was killed when a trench collapsed.
August 2016

warning: fatal hazard: trench

Hold the guide with this side facing you and the above graphic shown to your crew. (Print out the hardcopy for use onsite). Then read the story.

Our safety talk today is about a 47-year-old construction worker who was killed when a trench collapsed. The worker entered an unshored trench nearly 9 feet deep and 9 feet wide to retrieve an asphalt chunk that had fallen inside. He did not tell anyone his intention before making his way from the beginning of the trench through a 5-foot high culvert section already laid in the trench. As he stepped out of the culvert to retrieve the asphalt chunk, the dirt walls above him collapsed. Coworkers called for emergency help and dug out the victim, who died en route to the hospital.

So here are some ways we can prevent something like this from happening where we work.

  • trench graphicDo not enter a trench until a Competent Person approves entry. Always communicate with a Competent Person on site before entering a trench.
  • Never enter a trench or excavation that’s five feet deep or more without protection from cave-ins. Cave-ins pose the greatest danger for a fatality. The basic methods to prevent cave-ins are sloping, benching, shoring and shielding. Remember that one cubic yard of soil can weight as much as a car.
  • Follow safe procedures for entering and exiting a trench. An excavation with a depth of four feet or more must have a stairway, ladder, or ramp within 25 feet of employees

“Does anyone have more ideas or comments to share?” Pause for discussion. Then see if there are ways to take action.

END WITH ACTION PLAN (ideas for what to ask or say).

  • What do you all do to make sure people are not entering a hazardous environment such as an unsafe trench?
  • Do we have a task today that requires an inspection by a Competent Person?
  • Discuss a similar situation at your current site.
  • Express your commitment to training people on hazardous environments that can be expected within scope of work.
  • Commit to follow-up at the next safety talk.