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WorkSafe VIC: Urging employer to take care around trenches

Thursday, 23 August, 2012 - 10:00
Incidents & prosecutions

WorkSafe VIC has put out a reminder to the construction industry of the dangers associated with trenches. This reminder follows the collapse of a trench on a worker at a domestic housing site at Pakenham. WorkSafe VIC report that the trench collapsed on a plumber while he was connecting a sewer at a housing construction site.

Ironically this incident happened a week before WorkSafe VIC commenced a 12-month campaign targeting safety on construction sites.
WorkSafe VIC report that annually injuries on construction sites cost the industry $17 million. These costs include medical costs, wages and other expenses.

WorkSafe VIC note that the common and serious injuries associated with trench collapse include broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries.

WorkSafe VIC advises that there are a range of effective control measures that can and should be implemented before workers commence working on trenches. Given the recent weather conditions, WorkSafe VIC reminds employers that it is important to consider issues such as ground moisture levels which can have an impact on soil stability.

WorkSafe list some important control measures (in addition to completing a safe work methods statement) such as 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; and
  • Materials and plant are kept away from the edge of the trench.

For more information, including a link to a copy of the Code of Practice for Safety Precautions in Trenching Operations head to the WorkSafe VIC website.