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Date PostedApril 13, 2013

White Card Update: Construction Worker Trapped in Trench for 4 Hours

An incident that happened in New York recently is an example of the type of accident that construction workers dread. Firefighters in New York battled to pull a man trapped in a subway construction project from a trench, covered in mud, out of the hole and to safety. They took hours to free the worker who had to be hoisted out of the subway trench on a stretcher.

According to a post on http://newyork.cbslocal.com the worker was trapped 75 to 100 feet below ground level in the trench. The incident occurred during the evening and lasted until after midnight.

The article below was taken from http://newyork.cbslocal.com and explains further:

trench_rescue_0319Firefighters and paramedics were lined up at street level to receive the worker. Once he arrived, firefighters planned to hose and wash him down, as it was not clear what kind of contaminants may have been in the subway tunnel mud, officials said.

The worker was trapped 75 to 100 feet below grade level in a block-long trench, Sandberg reported.

Just after midnight, the worker’s condition was downgraded to serious, and conditions at the scene also deteriorated as the temperature dropped. Firefighters were cutting sheets of plywood at the scene in an effort to shore up the wet, muddy trench, Sandberg reported.

The plywood sheets and two-by-fours were used to dig into the slippery mud in an effort to get the worker out, Sandberg reported.

The rescue effort began around 8:30 p.m., and more than 100 firefighters were sent to the scene.

Three firefighters were injured during the rescue effort – one with a broken hand, and another wheeled away on a stretcher with unspecified injuries. There was no information on the injuries to the third firefighter.

Two of the firefighters were taken to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Sandberg reported.

Firefighters used a ladder that was poised over an open hole in the pavement, trying to rappel down to the worker, Sandberg reported.


An added threat to the trapped construction worker’s safety was the weather. The man almost caught hypothermia because it was so cold and he was trapped in mud, till after midnight.

Working in wet conditions is one of the biggest causes of trench instability because as the ground becomes moremoist it also becomes less stable. Poor stability combined with the work processes involved with construction such as use of heavy machinery can be a recipe for disaster.

Before engaging in trench work these risks should be taken into account. Workers should never engage in trench work unless supervised or in the presence of a co-worker who can raise the alarm if something goes wrong.

Even before beginning trench and excavation work, the person responsible for the site should obtain as much information as they can relating to the site’s ground conditions.

Once the ground’s condition has been identified employers need to decide on the system of ground support they will use. They will also need to consider weather conditions as well as the proximity of in-ground services.


Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

Posted in General Construction, White Card, White Card Construction Site Safety Articles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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