WorkSafe reminds construction workers to stay safe around trenches

WorkSafe urges the construction industry to take care when working around trenches after one collapsed on a plumber at a housing site in Pakenham on Saturday.

The incident occurred just a week before a statewide WorkSafe campaign focusing on safety on housing construction sites commenced.

SafetyCulture reported that the victim was trapped in waist-deep mud when a trench he was digging collapsed Saturday morning. He was connecting a sewer at a housing construction site when the incident happened.

WorkSafe’s Construction Manager, Allan Beacom said it was fortunate the victim’s colleague was nearby to raise the alarm.

“Broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries are just some of the serious injuries that can occur when a trench collapses,” said Mr Beacom.

“This man is incredibly lucky he wasn’t seriously injured; the consequences could have been a lot worse.”

He said the incident should serve as a reminder to the construction industry to review safety practices.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve come across an incident where a trench has collapsed on a worker. This time last year, WorkSafe issued a safety alert on this topic as we were coming across a number of incidents being engulfed in collapsed trenches.”

“There’s a range of control measures that can be implemented before beginning work on trenches. They are well-known across the industry and should be implemented to eliminate any risk of a collapse.”

“As we’re in the middle of winter, it’s equally important that environmental factors such as wet weather conditions and increased ground moisture are taken into account as they could affect soil stability.”

“Poor soil stability and loose earth places workers at greater risk of serious injury if a trench is a metre or more deep. We urge those who are putting together a safe work method statement to take these factors into account.”

Other control measures include ensuring:

  • A colleague is on site while trench works are being carried out;
  • Work is planned so it can be done safely, including determining appropriate; engulfment protection and site security requirements;
  • A safe work method statement (SWMS) is developed for high risk work that involves mobile plant or if the trench depth is 1.5m or more;
  • Workers never work outside of protection shields or remove it prematurely if it is being progressively installed;
  • Materials, spoil and plant are kept away from the edge of the trench.

Information on The Code of Practice for Safety Precautions in Trenching Operations can be found at the WorkSafe website.



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