Construction Worker Dies Trapped Under Loader in Trench

June 14, 2023

June 14, 2023
Contact: Jame Jones, Communications Coordinator (857) 301-7730

Construction Worker Dies Trapped Under Loader in Trench

The death of Roger Porter at a construction incident at Brockton Hospital is a tragic reminder of how dangerous the construction industry can be and that employers must take every precaution to protect workers from numerous hazards on the job, particularly when working with trenches and excavation sites, said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) in a statement released today.

According to media reports, Brockton police were called Tuesday at 12:06pm to respond to an incident involving a construction worker trapped in a trench by a Bobcat Skid-Steer Loader. After extricating the worker, first responders sadly pronounced him dead at the scene. The worker was identified as Roger Porter, age 63. He was a resident of East Sandwich. Porter, who worked for LMA Services based out of Stoughton, was said to have been in the trench working with the operator of the loader to level out gravel, when the vehicle fell in. OSHA and Brockton police are currently investigating the incident.

According to this year’s MassCOSH report, Dying for Work in Massachusetts, construction was the second most hazardous industry for workers in 2022, with construction deaths accounting for nearly a quarter of reported fatalities from workplace injuries. In the United States at large, meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically reported 39 trench-related fatalities, more than doubling the 15 fatalities that were reported in 2021. Because of this increase in deaths from trenching incidents, MassCOSH recommended in this year’s report that any business seeking a trenching permit first be required to report their record of safety violations. By July 2022, the number of trench-related fatalities had already surpassed those from the previous year, prompting Douglas Parker, the Assistant Secretary for OSHA, to issue a statement:

"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench…Every one of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers complied with OSHA standards.”

In their safety guidelines for trenching, OSHA recommends keeping materials, including equipment and spoils (excavated material), away from the edge of any trench. In this specific incident the Bobcat may have been too close to the edge, or there may have been other materials too close to the edge, causing the ground to cave and the loader to fall in. To prevent incidents like these, OSHA advises following at least one of the following precautions:

• Set spoils and equipment at least two feet back from an adequately protected excavation.
• Use retaining devices, such as a trench box that will extend above the top of the trench to prevent equipment and spoils from falling back into the excavation.
• Where the site does not permit a two-foot setback, spoils may need to be temporarily hauled to another location.

OSHA also offers clear guidelines on ensuring the structural integrity of trench walls and slopes. These guidelines not only prevent cave-ins from happening, but they also ensure that nothing near the trench falls in from the unsteady ground. To prevent cave-ins, OSHA requires one of the following:

• sloping or benching trench walls,
• shoring trench walls with supports, or
• shielding trench walls with trench boxes

“Our thoughts are with Roger Porter’s family, friends and colleagues during this incredibly difficult time,” said MassCOSH Chief of Strategy and Engagement Al Vega. “Unfortunately, fatal trenching accidents continue to afflict working communities throughout the United States, even though they are highly preventable. We strongly urge all employers to follow the guidelines and recommendations of occupational safety experts when working with trenches and excavation sites. Workers like Roger deserve to return home from work each day and not be severely injured or killed on the job simply trying to provide for themselves and their families.”