Blog Post #915 – Trench Collapse Yields Penalty

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

A court fined Toronto firm Utility Force Inc. $75,000 on October 7, 2016, over a fatal trench collapse more than two years earlier.

A court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour  (MOL) states that the incident occurred on July 21, 2014, when the company was installing water and sewer lines at a residential construction site. A backhoe operator had dug a trench measuring more than 3 metres deep at the site. A Utility Force employee entered the trench before it had been sloped to clear dirt away from a pipe, the supervisor was distracted by paperwork at the time. The trench collapsed, burying the worker up to the chest, and a second collapse killed the worker before emergency responders could complete a rescue.

The MOL determined that the firm had not documented any training on the hazards of trench work or on the legal requirement of using a shoring box when entering an unsloped trench.

I am not sure which sections of the Ontario ‘Construction Projects’ regulation 213/91 or the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) but I will give my selections and see if, you, the reader, agree with me.

Section 226 of the 213/91 had to certainly been investigated. The soil type had to be determined. It states,

“For the purposes of this Part, soil shall be classified as Type 1, 2, 3 or 4 in accordance with the descriptions set out in this section.

(2) Type 1 soil,

(a) is hard, very dense and only able to be penetrated with difficulty by a small sharp object;

(b) has a low natural moisture content and a high degree of internal strength;

(c) has no signs of water seepage; and

(d) can be excavated only by mechanical equipment.

(3) Type 2 soil,

(a) is very stiff, dense and can be penetrated with moderate difficulty by a small sharp object;

(b) has a low to medium natural moisture content and a medium degree of internal strength; and

(c) has a damp appearance after it is excavated.

(4) Type 3 soil is,

(a) previously excavated soil; or

(b) soil that is stiff to firm or compact to loose in consistency and has one or more of the following characteristics:

(i) It exhibits signs of surface cracking.

(ii) It exhibits signs of water seepage.

(iii) If it is dry, it may run easily into a well-defined conical pile.

(iv) It has a low degree of internal strength.

(5) Type 4 soil,

(a) is soft to very soft and very loose in consistency, very sensitive and upon disturbance is significantly reduced in natural strength;

(b) runs easily or flows, unless it is completely supported before excavating procedures;

(c) has almost no internal strength;

(d) is wet or muddy; and

(e) exerts substantial fluid pressure on its supporting system.”

Section 234, subsection (1) was also in contravention and it states,

  • The walls of an excavation shall be supported by a support system that complies with sections 235, 236, 237, 238, 239 and 241.” These particular sections cover support systems when dealing with trenches.

Finally, section 25, subsection 1(c) of the OHSA was in contravention and it states,

“An employer shall ensure that,

(c) the measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace.”

In closing,

Every employer MUST ensure that they read and understand the OHSA and appropriate sector regulations. It is too late to review after the fact!

Please ensure that your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Construction Safety Awareness’, Trenching Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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