Two separate trench collapses prompt safety warning for SA


Wednesday, 28 July, 2021

Two separate trench collapses prompt safety warning for SA

SafeWork SA has issued a safety alert about the hazards and risks associated with excavation work, after two incidents led to workers being trapped when trenches collapsed. The first incident occurred on 6 July 2021, when a worker was injured after a trench collapsed while removing earth around and under existing services to allow the installation of an electrical conduit. The worker was engulfed up to his waist by the earth for approximately 30 minutes, requiring emergency services to respond. The worker sustained serious injuries to his spine and internal organs. A second incident occurred on 12 July 2021, when a worker was injured after a trench collapsed while using a jackhammer. The worker was engulfed up to the shoulder by earth for approximately 30 minutes, and received injuries resulting in bruising and muscle strains.

To help manage the risks of ground collapse associated with excavation work, SafeWork SA has developed new guidance information on preventing trench collapse. SafeWork SA data has also revealed that 40 files have been opened since 1 July 2021 associated with incidents involving excavation work. Of the 40 files, 13 are related to exposure to open trenches, four are related to inadequate shoring of trenches and three are related to the collapse of trenches.

“Ground collapse is one of the primary risks which need to be controlled in excavation work as it can happen quickly and without warning, giving workers virtually no time to escape,” said Martyn Campbell, Executive Director of SafeWork SA. From September 2021, Inspectors will also carry out a statewide campaign on high risk construction work (HRCW), which includes construction work that is carried out in or near a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres. The Safe Work Method Statement Compliance Program 2020 Audit Report recommended a greater representation of civil construction to be audited.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/aapsky

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