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Employer fined for almost completely burying ‘stressed’ employee alive

Buried trench worker
Buried trench worker

A contracting company was penalised for almost sealing a worker’s fate.

An employee was wrongly engulfed in soil, injured and traumatised. This is the conclusion authorities reached.

One worker was literally buried up to his neck in a three metre-deep trench after one of the two metre wide sidewalls collapsed at an undisclosed site.

“Only the top of his head [was] visible. A fellow worker had to use his hands and a spade to dig his workmate free,” a MinEx safety alert said.

“The victim suffered a broken rib cage, collapsed lung, broken sternum, and broken collarbone. He now also lives with post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident.”

Investigators blamed the drainage business for the incident and injuries, ultimately resulting in a $275,000 fine.

They recommended the following:

  • no matter how deep an excavation is implement controls to prevent ground collapse e.g. shoring, benching or battering trenches
  • train and assess all workers as competent to safely perform trenching activities
  • frequently check soil condition, shoring, benching, battering and excavated faces for signs of earth fretting, slipping, slumping or ground swelling.

Click here to read the full safety alert.

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