Danger in the Trenches: Excavation Shortcuts Cost Lives

The trenches are literally littered with a variety of potential safety and environmental hazards. Landslides are perhaps the most feared trench hazard, as a cubic meter of earth can weigh as much as a car. Choking due to lack of oxygen in a confined space is a significant risk. As well as inhaling toxic fumes and drowning.

The mortality rate for excavation work is 112% higher than the general construction rate. Did you know that trenches of 20 feet or deeper must be designed by a registered professional engineer?


While those who work on the front line face dangers every day, it is equally important to take a top-down approach when it comes to dealing with the dangers of trenches:

Does management agree to always do the right thing? Do employees take care of each other, is safety the same?
Productivity outweighs safety? When no one is looking, do employees always do the right thing?
Who is monitoring these projects and the employees involved, especially when we know that two workers die each month from collapsed trenches? This is unacceptable and yet it continues.
Since early 2016, OSHA fines have ranged from $ 37,000 to more than $ 140,000 for trench violations. Trenches are nothing more than an open pit waiting to be filled, so why not fill them with the proper equipment (trench boxes) instead of trapped bodies? Trench boxes, also known as coffin boxes, remain inactive and are not used properly, so tragedy strikes.

When tragedy strikes

Generally, workers don’t get a second chance like Eric Giguere received when he nearly fell victim to a tragic trench accident. This is why it is so important to get it right the first time. Employers must be reminded that they must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause injury or death.

When Eric Giguere went to work on the morning of October 4, 2002, there was little in his daily routine other than the wedding ring he had just started wearing.

In his he work as a worker, he was commissioned to install water lines in a rural setting.

However, things quickly changed that afternoon.

Working in a trench about six feet deep, he crouched next to the pipe his team had laid. Without warning, the sides of the trench collapsed, engulfing him completely with crushing force.

Immediately a sense of panic overwhelmed him as he realized what had happened. Panic soon gave way to fear as he realized that the breath he was taking was getting more and more labored.

He thought he was dying.

The other members of his five-man crew immediately had to make tough decisions when the trench collapsed. The backhoe operator immediately removed the first two feet of dirt, but left the rest of the excavation to be done by hand for fear of further injuring Giguere.

About 10 minutes later, it was discovered … completely blue with no signs of life. When the ambulance was on its way, Giguere’s colleagues began CPR.


The ambulance team continued with CPR and eventually evacuated him by helicopter to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY, where doctors informed his wife, family and friends that they realized that despite their best efforts. , he may not live, and if he did, he would likely have severe brain damage.

One by one, loved ones entered his hospital room to pay what they thought would be their last farewell. While family members comforted his wife, a birth was in progress at the now empty crash site.

The contractor I was working for was leaving a trench that was previously unavailable. It was around 4pm, the same time Giguere and his new girlfriend were supposed to go on their honeymoon.

“It’s going to happen,” Giguere said. “I was a 27 year old bulletproof guy when it happened to me and I was just trying to do my job. My big message is this: we can’t get used to taking shortcuts at work. “

Leave a Comment