Safety alert issued after workers injured in trench collapses

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 23 July, 2021 - 13:00
Policy & legislation
National News
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a safety alert about the hazards and risks associated with excavation work after two separate incidents in which workers were trapped by collapsed trenches.

On 6 July 2021, a worker was injured after a trench collapsed while removing earth around and under existing services to allow the installation of an electrical conduit.

The worker was engulfed up to waist high by the earth for approximately 30 minutes requiring emergency services to respond. The worker received serious injuries to his spine and internal organs.

A second incident occurred on 12 July 2021 when a worker was injured after a trench collapsed while using a jackhammer.

The worker was engulfed up to shoulder height by earth for approximately 30 minutes. The worker received injuries resulting in bruising and muscle strains.

According to SafeWork SA data, 40 files have been opened since 1 July 2021 associated with incidents involving excavation work, and of the 40 files:

·       13 relate to exposure to open trenches

·       4 relate to inadequate shoring of trenches

·       3 relate to the collapse of trenches

“Ground collapse is one of the primary risks which need to be controlled in excavation work as it can happen quickly and without warning, giving workers virtually no time to escape,” said SafeWork SA executive director, Martyn Campbell.

SafeWork SA has developed new guidance information on preventing trench collapse to help manage the risks of ground collapse, associated with excavation work.