Encouraging Safety: Protecting the Head

A concrete filter was being replaced by a four-man crew at a car wash construction site. Two employees then entered a 9' deep, 14' long, and 6' wide trench to hand grade the bottom after the small tank had been removed. The trench had vertical faces which were not shored or sloped and had sides of unstable material. Employees were not wearing any personal protection for the head. One face of the trench collapsed, fatally injuring one employee and causing serious injuries to the other.

Analysis and Preventive Measures

  • An employer should instruct employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and then regulations applicable to the work environment in order to control or eliminate any hazards. (29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2)
  • Sides of trenches in unstable or soft material more than five feet in depth must be shored, braced, sloped, or otherwise supported to protect employees working within them (29 CFR 1926.652(b)
  • Employees working in an unshored trench in unstable material deeper than five feet must wear personal protective equipment to protect them from possible head injuries [29 CFR 1926.650(e)].

Questions To Ponder

  1. Were employees properly instructed in recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions?
  2. Did supervisors understand the requirement of any applicable standards?
  3. Was a PPE Hazard Analysis performed?

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