Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No One's Died Yet, So What's The Problem?

BUFORD, GA — A construction worker was trapped up to his chest in dirt when a trench collapsed Friday morning, but co-workers helped dig him out before firefighters began rescue operations.

The laborer was installing a sewer line for Metropolitan Land Development, a Lilburn-based company cited five times in the past three years for serious violations involving trench safety, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Web site
The trench was reported to be 18-20 feet deep. OSHA requires trenches over 5 feet deep to have a protective trench box or to be shored or sloped against collapse.

Now, here's something I don't understand. OSHA assistant area director Bill Cochran said that a serious violation could result in a $7,000 fine. That's true, but given previous citations against the company, I would think that a willful citation -- carrying a $70,000 fine -- would be in order.
In 2003, Metropolitan Land Development was cited for two serious violations involving trenching hazards and ordered to pay OSHA $2,000 in an informal settlement. In 2004, the company was cited three times for trenching safety violations and fined $9,000, according to inspection reports posted on OSHA's Web site.
And one more thing. Rare among trench collapse articles, the author points out that why even partial trench collapses are potentially deadly:
Capt. Scott Kennedy, who supervises the tactical rescue team for Gwinnett County Fire Department, said trench collapses are often fatal. Just one cubic foot of dirt can weigh between 100 to 150 pounds, so a trench collapse can restrict breathing and blood flow to the point that it becomes deadly.
Or put another way, 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 yards of soil. Do the math.

Conclusion #1: This guy was damn lucky.

Conclusion #2: Put these guys in jail before they kill someone.