Worker killed when trench box was dismantled with him still inside

Updated Dec 2, 2018

Construction worker in a trench box

File this one in the almost too crazy to believe, but Cal/OSHA has cited an Oakland contractor for dismantling a trench box while an employee was still inside.

According to the agency the contractor, Bay Construction, removed a linear support rail from the trench box while a worker was in it. The support rail fell during the dismantling and fatally crushed the worker.

The victim was compacting dirt at the bottom of the trench box when a worker in a backhoe topside attached a four hook bridle sling to remove the trench box’s 5,000-pound linear rails. According to Cal/OSHA, the hooks were inadequate for the operation and when one failed, the rail dropped out of the sling and fatally hit the worker in the head.

The subsequent investigation racked up a total of nine Cal/OSHA citations for Bay Construction with $141,075 in proposed penalties—five general, two serious, one serious accident-related and one willful serious accident related.

The latter was issued for failing to ensure that no employees were in the trench box while it was being dismantled. The serious accident-related citation was issued for failure to use adequate hooks for the sling. And the two serious violations cited the contractor’s failure to conduct daily inspections of the site and identify hazards and failure to implement multiple sections of the employer’s injury and illness prevention program.

If you’re interested in the subject of trench safety, see our Special Report “Death by Trench”.

Cal/OSHA also has a number of resources that can help you run a better and more effective construction safety program. You can find those here.