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Ohio trench collapses; worker barely escapes in time

When construction work involves a great deal of digging, employers are required to follow a number of safety precautions. If a trench is greater than five feet deep, OSHA requirements mandate reinforcement to help prevent the ground from caving in.

Recently, however, an OSHA inspector was visiting a construction site in Ohio and discovered a worker in a trench that was more than 10 feet deep and had no reinforcement. The OSHA inspector told the employee to get out of the trench immediately. The inspector believed the trench was going to collapse soon, and within five minutes, the worksite collapsed.

Although the construction worker was lucky the OSHA inspector noticed the violation so quickly, workers are not always that lucky. If the construction worker had still been in the trench when it collapsed, he would likely have been buried beneath at least seven feet of soil.

It is unclear why the employer failed to mandate the proper safety measure. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers to cut corners with safety measures to save time and money. While such measures may reduce the bottom line, they add numbers to the list of injured and killed workers.

According to the director of the Columbus OSHA office, "The actions of the compliance officer likely saved this worker's life. Cave-ins are a leading cause of fatalities during excavations."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that more than one in five workplace fatalities in the United States happen on construction sites. By following health and safety regulations, employers can help ensure their employees have the safe working environments they need, and they can reduce unnecessary accidents and fatalities.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "Quick action by OSHA inspector prevents possible injury or death"

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