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Image by Mikael Kristenson



May 29th, 2023

We hope you all had a safe and healthy Memorial day weekend and just a quick reminder of what this day means:


A day on which those who died in active military service are remembered, traditionally observed on May 30 but now officially observed on the last Monday in May. Also formerly Decoration Day

in the southern states on which those who died serving in the Confederate forces are remembered.


Coffman Excavation has an excellent safety record. You’ve been trained and designated as the competent person on project excavation sites. All the workers on your crew have been appropriately trained. You use trench-protection systems on your job sites. You have completed your PTP`s and JHA`s the emergency plan in place, and so on.

2022 and early 2023 has seen some of the deadliest months in excavation deaths due to trench collapse in the U.S. these have been totally avoidable accidents had proper training, shoring and shielding been in place.

Let’s assume that another contractor at another site nearby the one you’re working on has taken a few shortcuts. Suddenly, one of that contractor’s workers comes yelling, “A man’s been buried! We need your help! There’s been a cave-in!”


What do you do? Here are some suggestions:

·        Stay calm.

·        Take charge of the job site until a trained team, headed by an “Incident Commander” (the term often used by firefighters and rescue/recovery teams), arrives.

·        Safely get everyone who is not trapped out of the trench. Account for all workers.

·        Call 911 and/or the company’s rescue team, and report the cave-in. If the construction site is difficult to find, designate someone to meet the trained rescuers at a readily identifiable address or landmark, and direct them to the cave-in location.

·        Keep everyone who is not directly involved in the rescue/recovery at least 100 feet from the trench or excavation.

·        Shut down all equipment, except pumps that are being used to remove water in the immediate vicinity of the cave-in.

·        Stop or reroute traffic that might create vibrations and cause a secondary cave-in.

·        Do not attempt to dig the victim out with a backhoe or excavator. Such equipment may further injure the victim.

·        Do not remove the victim’s tools or equipment. They can be helpful in locating the victim.

In addition, the following information should be gathered:

·        Number of workers trapped

·        Where the victim(s) was last seen

·        The time the cave-in occurred

·        The depth of the trench

·        The soil type

·        An estimate of how much soil has collapsed on the victim

·        The presence of any potentially harmful atmospheres

·        The location and condition of all underground utilities


There may be a very strong temptation to jump down into the trench and try to dig the victim out. Do not do it. Untrained or ill-equipped rescuers frequently become victims themselves from secondary cave-ins.


These simple guidelines will assist rescue personnel in what will hopefully be a successful rescue.  But let’s be completely honest here, it’s no different than a drowning victim rescue, it will very quickly be a body recovery. Don’t take even shallow trenches for granted, you can be buried alive quickly in a 24-36” trench if you happen to be laying down working just as fast as standing in a 6` deep one.


Don’t take excavation work for granted. Don’t have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude because I have done it this way for years and nothing has ever happened. And most importantly if you see another company, tradesperson in a unsafe environment SAY SOMETHING…

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