OSHA opens investigation into trench collapse

Published: Mar. 15, 2017 at 4:22 PM CDT
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OSHA has opened an investigation into Tuesday’s trench collapse in Northwest Omaha. The depth of the trench may be of the most concern to investigators.

On Tuesday, Drew Johnson was rescued after he was trapped inside a trench for nearly seven hours. The 23-year-old, of Utility Trenching, Inc., was working on a sewer main project hired privately by a homeowner.

Officials say the dirt around the trench collapsed causing Johnson to be buried in dirt up to his waist.

According to OSHA Investigators, the trench at the time was nearing nine feet deep, which opens up a line of questions.

OSHA requirements say that workers dealing with trenches greater than five feet deep must use the proper safety precautions.

Scott Allen with the U.S. Department of Labor said, “There are a number of standards that they are well aware of that they need to follow every time -- not just at a convenient time."

OSHA considers trenching a serious issue. Its current statistics show 23 people have been killed due to trench collapses since January 2016.

“It's imperative that they follow all OSHA standards and regulations and insure they have proper trench box and shoring material,” Allen added.

“It's just unacceptable to put a young person or anyone in jeopardy while working in a trench."

As far as this investigation goes, Allen says he can't yet say if the proper precautions were taken by the company, but he hopes this is a lesson to others.

“We don't call them fatalities and injuries in work-place accidents. We call them incidences because they're preventable,” said Allen. “These things can be prevented if the proper things are taken into consideration as far as the safety of their workers.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Drew Johnson remains at Nebraska Medicine.