BUFFALO GROVE, IL ‒ Down about seven feet from the surface, the 27-year-old worker of a Burr Ridge plumbing contracting business was fixing a residential water line damaged during excavation when the trench’s walls collapsed, crushing him fatally in December 2022 at a Buffalo Grove work site. Another employee in the trench with him at the time escaped the trench unharmed.

Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Rooter Solutions Inc. had failed to install cave-in protection that would have protected workers in the trench and did not ensure the use of required head protection.

“Trench collapses are one of the construction industry’s most deadly hazards. Soil can shift suddenly and bury a person under thousands of pounds of dirt and rocks,” explained OSHA Chicago North Area Director Sukhvir Kaur in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “This worker’s death was one of 39 caused by fatal injuries in trench collapses in 2022.”

OSHA’s investigation led the agency to issue a citation to Rooter Solutions Inc. for one willful violation and one serious violation with proposed penalties of $35,940.

Rooter Solutions Inc. offers plumbing and sewer services including emergency plumbing services, general plumbing services, leak detection and repair, drain cleaning and repairs, sewer services, and plumbing-related remodeling services in DuPage County and the surrounding area.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter.

In June, the National Utility Contractors Association annually recognizes Trench Safety Month. OSHA and the NUCA will collaborate for Trench Safety Stand Down Week at hundreds of jobsites nationwide, reaching thousands of workers, from June 19 to 23, 2023.

OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions. including a safety video.

Learn more about OSHA.

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