New Brunswick Worker Buried Alive Hazard Alert

Topic: New Brunswick Worker Buried Alive
Date Issued: April 1, 2005 Date Revised:

An employee was placing drainpipe at the bottom of a 1.8 m deep x 2 m wide trench when a cave-in occurred, with fatal results. The trench was dug in ground made up of topsoil, grey silt and imported dirt.

On the day of the incident, there were three cave-ins at the site, with no injuries. Each time, the owner of the company used an excavator to re-dig the trench so work could continue.

Concerned bystanders advised the worker to get out of the trench as they felt it was unsafe. A fourth cave-in occurred, burying the worker to his shoulders.

A bystander and the company owner, who was supervising the job, attempted to rescue the worker. They had partially dug him out and were trying to pull him away from the wall when another section of the wall caved in on both the worker and the owner.

This fifth cave-in completely re-buried the worker, and the owner was buried up to his shoulders. The bystander was able to free the owner up to his belt by the time rescue personnel arrived. The owner was taken to the hospital, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

The worker was found buried under approximately 60 cm (2 feet) of dirt. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The autopsy revealed he had died from severe crushing injuries to the chest from the fourth cave-in.

Recommended Preventive Action

  1. NEVER enter a trench that is not safely shored or sloped, braced or caged! If there is a cave-in, even a small one, GET OUT OF THE TRENCH AND STAY OUT until the trench has been made safe!
  2. Keep excavated material at least 1.2 m away from the edge of an excavation or trench.
  3. Remove any loose material that may fall into the excavation or trench.
  4. Ensure that any heavy equipment used next to an excavation or trench, shoring, bracing or caging is adequate to support the added pressure and weight of the equipment.

See sections 180 to 188 of General Regulation 91-191, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for more information about excavations and trenches.

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