Trench safety training emphasizes importance of caution when digging

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Three trench incidents have occurred in the past ten months in the Rapid City area. Trenches are particularity dangerous because rescue efforts take hours, and the weight of soil approaches 80 pounds per square foot.

Trench safety trainingEvery year, Rapid City first responders are called to trenches when walls collapse and workers are entrapped, and Greg Derynck, with SDSU Engineering and OSHA Consultation explains why they’re so concerning.

“Every trench is going to collapse. It’s a matter of when it’s going to collapse, not if,” Derynck says.

There are two main dangers in these scenarios. Circulation is impeded by the crushing weight, and blood can become acidic and toxic. Then, when the pressure is released upon rescue, the rapid movement of blood and fluids into the extremities and away from the core can be deadly.

“If it’s up to your chest level, you breathe in and you’re not able to breathe out,” explains Jim Heaphy, a Safety Trainer with Associated General Contractors.

 Trenches are extremely loose and unstable, which adds to the difficulty of rescue efforts.

First responders have to navigate a potentially perilous situation without further endangering the victim.

“Good chance of secondary collapse, entrapping the victim. The ground itself is very heavy when it falls on you; unable to escape,” adds Captain Wade Hughes of Rapid City Fire Department Heavy Rescue.

It’s critical for construction companies as well as individual land owners to take proper precautions when digging, because rushing a job could be incredibly costly.

“Too many shortcuts are being taken, and we want to get the message out to the small operators, any operators that it needs to be done safely,” says Heaphy.

There is plenty of information and assistance available through the South Dakota Associated General Contractors, and they are always happier to advise proper construction than assess devastation.

“It doesn’t take a lot of resources to do it safely, if you’re gonna be in the business, OSHA has the expectation that you protect your workers,” adds Heaphy.

With so much support available, this training was designed to make workers aware of resources and remind them that no shortcut is worth the price of returning home.

“People need to work safely so they go home safe and sound to their families at the end of the day,” said Heaphy.

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