A trenching accident happened on a golf course in Saskatchewan in 2008 during the installation of new water and sewer pipes. The Elkridge Golf and Conference Centre pleaded guilty to four charges after a worker was partially buried in a trench. They received a fine of $14,000.

The company failed to complete the following:

1) Ensure workers were protected from cave-ins or sliding material in a trench;

2) Notify Saskatchewan Occupational Health & Safety Division of a dangerous occurrence;

3) Ensure that work was sufficiently and competently supervised; and

4) Ensure the company had an OH&S program.

Here are a few excavation and trench safety guidelines:

a) Each side of an excavation or trench that is 5 feet or deeper must be protected by shoring/bracing and sheeting or be sloped — unless it is cut from rock;

b) Each open side of an excavation or trench shall have a guardrail or a solid enclosure;

c) Each excavation or trench shall have a way out, such as a ladder or ramp; and

d) Regularly check the walls of an excavation or trench for cracks, bulges or spalling. (Spall are flakes of a material that are broken off a larger solid body and can be produced by a variety of mechanisms)

A trenching accident can have catastrophic consequences. A life or lives can be snuffed out by the avalanche of the on-rushing dirt/sand, rock or other free flowing material. Trenching should be a planned event, well supervised, with everyone on the team well trained.

To be competent under the ACT in Ontario one must have the following credentials:

a) To have the training knowledge and experience to organize the work;
b) To know the ACT and the appropriate regulations that apply to this work, in this case trenching; and
c) To know the hazards associated with whatever training is to be completed.

In Ontario, I believe the MOL would have meted out fines for the following infractions:

1) Section 25, subsection 1(c) The employer shall ensure that
– The measures and procedures prescribed are carried out in the workplace;
2) Section 25, Subsection 2(a) The employer shall
– Provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of the worker;
3) Section 25, subsection 2(c) The employer shall
– When appointing a supervisor, appoint a competent person;
4) Section 25, subsection 2(h) The employer shall
– Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker; and
5) Section 27, subsection 2(c) A supervisor shall
– Take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker.

It is safe to say that if this company had worked in Ontario they would have received much more in fines than they did. I also find that most companies do not hire competent people to supervise workers. They do not receive adequate training, especially workplace-specific training, in this case, trenching, and serious accidents continually happen. Just imagine if more supervisors realized their responsibilities under the ACT. Think about them actually understanding the fact that the workers safety IS their responsibility!

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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