Post #347 – Worker Buried when Earth Wall Collapses Dies

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine

The collapse of an earth wall, measuring 15 metres high and 18 metres wide, recently claimed the life of a dump truck driver at a construction site.

Randolph James Williams, a 47-year-old employee of Steph Trucking, was sitting in the cab of his dump truck at about 3:30 pm on February 14, 2008 when an earth pile crumbled onto the vehicle.

An excavator was loading earth onto the back of Williams’s truck at about the time of the fatal incident, says Barrie Harrison, a spokesperson with Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry (AEII). Williams died at the scene.

The site, which is being developed by prime contractor Perera Development Group, was shut down. A stop-work order was to remain in effect until an engineer could assess the stability of any earth walls on site and appropriate control measures could be implemented, Harrison says.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour notes various factors — such as soil type, vibration, moisture content, nearby buildings, and previous disturbance of the soil — must be taken into account to ensure earth walls remain safe. Associated collapses may be the result of vibration from operating equipment or nearby traffic; compromised soil stability as a result of the weight of nearby buildings; and rain, freezing and heat, which can reduce soil cohesion, the ministry adds.

My opinion

The Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 has an entire Part that deals with excavations. (Part III) The listing for separate sections and topics are as follows;

1) Interpretation and Application
2) Entry and Working Alone
3) Soil Types
4) Precautions Concerning Services
5) Protection of Adjacent Structures
6) General Requirements, and
7) Support Systems

The information begins at section 222 and ends with section 242. In this case, ‘Soil Types’ is discussed in sections 226 and 227. There we find a brief description of the 4 types of grades of soil. (Types 1 through 4) and there is also a discussion of how the soil type has to be determined which in this case is by visual and physical examination. It also discusses that if two or more types are present then the type with the highest number is to be used.(the more dangerous soil type)

All excavators, through proper training, know and understand about the 4 type of soils that an excavator can come across. It is important that complete examination be completed prior to any work is to be done. The safety of all the workers MUST be taken into account before the initial dig in the operation. The guesswork has to be eliminated and the employer needs to ensure that his/her team has been deemed competent as defined in the OHSA.

The Saskatchewan government’s standard for competency is as follows;

“competent” means possessing knowledge, experience and training to perform a specific duty;

(m) “competent worker”, with respect to a particular task or duty, includes a worker who is being trained to perform that task or carry out that duty and who is under close and competent supervision during that training;

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996

It is my belief that the contractor did not ensure that ALL of his/her employees were competent as defined by the legislation of Saskatchewan.

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’ 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 — Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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