Friday, May 13, 2005

Trench Rescue: Generally Too Little, Too Late

I once did a trench safety workshop for some public works employees in New England. I asked them to raise their hands if they had received any trenching safety training. Only a few reaised their hands and I asked them to tell me about it.

"Well," one said, "They taught us how to dig someone out when the trench collapses."

That wasn't exactly what i was talking about. The problem is that a cubic yard of soil weights about 2700 pounds, the weight of a mid-sized automobile. A trench collapse may contain three to five cubic feet of soil. Do the math. Even if you're only buried up to your waist, successful rescue is unlikely; you're probably going to die.

This was the unfortunate lesson learned by rescuers in Pinellas County, Florida and an unfortunate B&B Professional Plumbing Inc employee, Charles Michael Morrison, 48:

Trapped Worker Dies Despite Rescuers' Efforts

PINELLAS PARK - A man working in a deep ditch as part of a sewer project Thursday was trapped when a wall of dirt collapsed on him and he died roughly an hour later, police and fire officials said.

Morrison was working in an unshored 12 to 15 foot deep trench.
He was buried anywhere from his waist up to his belly button, and he was conscious. Fire fighters were reluctant to go in to the ditch themselves to rescue the man, for fear of jeopardizing their own safety, Lewis said.
This was a legitimate fear, considering the fact that as many as 65 percent of all deaths from trench cave-ins are of would-be rescuers.

So, if we now all of this, why do people die in trench collapses week after week?

More here.

UPDATE:
The plumber killed in a trench accident Thursday died from blunt trauma caused by the heavy, fast-moving wall of dirt that collapsed on him, the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office said Friday.

The force broke Charles "Mike" Morrison's ribs and fractured his pelvis, setting the stage for the cardiac arrest he suffered as workers tried to free him from the 15-foot-deep trench behind Intrepid Powerboats Inc. on Belcher Road.

Bill Pellan, the medical examiner's director of investigations, said cardiac arrest could have been brought on by various factors, including internal hemorrhaging and shock.
Morrison's family said Friday they were devastated by the death and attributed it to "other people's negligence."

"This was preventable," said Morrison's stepdaughter, Jennifer Butson, 24. "What we're just not understanding is how was this man placed in such a dangerous situation?"


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