White Card Update: Trench Safety Warning

WorkSafe has warned that construction workers need to be aware of the danger of working around trenches. Construction workers in particularly are in danger of being injured when trench walls collapse. This warning follows an incident which saw a plumber sustaining serious injuries after a trench collapsed where he was working. Thankfully the worker did not suffer any serious injuries because as WorkSafe warns, the situation could have been much worse. This alert posted on WorkSafe’s website has more:

WorkSafe is reminding the construction industry of the dangers associated with trenches after one collapsed on a worker at a domestic housing site at Pakenham at the weekend.  The incident happened a week before a 12-month statewideWorkSafe campaign targeting safety on housing construction sites. Injuries on construction sites cost the industry $17 million a year in medical costs, wages and other expenses. The trench collapsed on a plumber while he was connecting a sewer at a housing construction site about 9.30am on Saturday. WorkSafe’s Construction Manager Allan Beacom said it was fortunate the worker had a colleague nearby who was able to raise the alarm. “Broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries are just some of the serious injuries that can occur when a trench collapses,” he said. “This man is incredibly lucky he wasn’t seriously injured; the consequences could have been a lot worse.” Mr Beacom said the incident was a reminder to the construction industry to review safety practices. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve come across an incident where a trench has collapsed on a worker. This time last year, WorkSafe issued a safety alert on this topic as we were coming across a number of incidents being engulfed in collapsed trenches.” “There’s a range of control measures that can be implemented before beginning work on trenches. They are well-known across the industry and should be implemented to eliminate any risk of a collapse.” “As we’re in the middle of winter, it’s equally important that environmental factors such as wet weather conditions and increased ground moisture are taken into account as they could affect soil stability.” “Poor soil stability and loose earth places workers at greater risk of serious injury if a trench is a metre or more deep. We urge those who are putting together a safe work method statement to take these factors into account.” Other control measures include ensuring:   –    A colleague is on site while trench works are being carried out; 1.Work is planned so it can be done safely, including determining appropriate; engulfment protection and site security requirements; 2.A safe work method statement (SWMS) is developed for high risk work that involves mobile plant or if the trench depth is 1.5m or more; 3.Workers never work outside of protection shields or remove it prematurely if it is being progressively installed; 4.Materials, spoil and plant are kept away from the edge of the trench. The Code of Practice for Safety Precautions in Trenching Operations can be found at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au Source: http://www.news.com.au/national-news/man-trapped-in-muddy-trench/story-fndo4eg9-1226448096606

A similar incident occurred last week when a worker was trapped waist deep in a trench and had to be rescued by emergency services. The accident happened when the man was working in the trench at a new housing project in Pakenham. The bad weather in the area caused the trench to collapse, trapping the worker in the hole. Emergency personnel had to use specialist equipment to free the man. This included the use of hydraulic equipment that firefighters utilised to dig the trench safely and prevent further collapse. The worker was been taken to hospital and thankfully only suffered minor injuries. The good news is that the authorities say these types of incidents are isolated which means that most workers do the right thing and work safely. The weather was the cause of the incident and not human error. This worker was lucky to escape unscathed however planning, developing safe work method statements and general caution when working near trenches will ensure that incidents of this nature remain uncommon.