A worker was lucky to escape with his life when a trench he was digging collapsed and caused him to become trapped about waist high in mud. The incident occurred on a Pakenham housing development and according to witnesses the mud was similar to quicksand. After around 2 hours the man was freed by about 6 dozen firefighters from the CFA and MFB.
Experts say the problem arose when a sewerage channel nearby caused the ground to become unstable following the heavy rains in Melbourne. Rescue workers suffered great difficulty trying to retrieve the man and had to call in hydraulic pumps and wooden barriers to protect the safety of the rescue workers involved. The worker involved was later diagnosed with mild hypothermia. WorkSafe’s investigation is ongoing.
This is what Heraldsun.com.au had to say:
A TRADESMAN has been rescued from quicksand-like mud after a trench collapsed around him on a building site in Melbourne’s outer south-east.
The 35-year-old was digging a channel in the backyard of a new residential development in Stable St, Pakenham, when it caved in about 8.30am, trapping him in waist-deep mud.
Sixty firefighters from the CFA and MFB were called to the scene. They worked for more than two hours to free the man.
CFA acting operations officer Michael Cherry said recent heavy rains and a nearby sewer channel had made the ground unstable.
“The mud was liquid, like quicksand and this type of thing can kill people by sucking them in and putting pressure on their ability to breathe,” Mr Cherry said.
“He’s been very lucky that the mud was only up to his waist and not up to his neck.”
Mr Cherry said it was a difficult retrieval. The crews used hydraulic pumps and plywood barriers to move the mud and reach the man without getting sucked in themselves.
The man was taken to Monash Medical Centre suffering mild hypothermia.
WorkSafe is investigating.
Across the globe a similar case ensued in Utah in The USA where a construction worker had to be rescued from a trench by emergency rescue services after it collapsed. The man and several other construction workers were preparing the trench for a sewer line. The 29 year old man had to be airlifted to hospital after being buried waist deep in the trench. The problem with trench rescues is that rescue workers often have to risk falling into the trench themselves in order to rescue the victim, which is why these rescue operations are so risky and lengthy. Fortunately the worker involved escaped with his life and a few broken bones because he could have easily been buried alive.
This post on Heraldextra.com provides more information:
Battalion Chief Doug Bateman of the American Fork Fire Department said the injured man had an obviously broken femur and possibly some internal injuries. Bateman said the worker was conscious during the rescue.
“He was in severe pain but conscious the whole time,” he said. He said the situation was critical enough to warrant having the medical helicopter ready for service.
“Any time you have something like that you have to be wary,” he said.
Work on the project has been shut down, pending an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Early Friday afternoon an OSHA investigator was on the scene.
Bateman said the injured man was fortunate.
“Not very many people come out of a trench collapse alive,” he said. “History shows that on trench collapses, not many come out alive because of factors of compression on the body and the forces that are put on those limbs.”
The trench was approximately 15 feet deep. The man was reportedly working to move a trench box, which shores up the sides, from one location to another as the work continued. The area is on the east side of Interstate 15 and west of the Cinemark movie theaters.
A ladder the man had been standing on was seen afterward, bent to a nearly 90 degree angle.
Three other workers were nearby when the collapse happened. They called 911 for help and began a rescue attempt.
Cody Stansfield was one. He did not see the collapse, but was onsite immediately after.
“It is a bad feeling,” he said. “It is scary. He was in a lot of pain. He is a good guy and had a family. We hope he is OK. This is a dangerous profession. I am glad he is alive.”
He had worked with the injured man off and on over a three- or four-month period, he estimated.
“We are worried for him,” he said. “There was a lot of adrenaline flowing.”
Stansfield said such accidents were uncommon.
“In 15 years I have never seen anything like it,” he said.
When emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they had to be sure the trench would not collapse further.
“We had to make sure it was safe for our personnel,” Bateman said. After that, they began work with shovels to extricate the injured man.
These 2 incidents highlight the need for extreme caution to be exercised when working with trenches or excavations.
Posted by Steven Asnicar