Worker Killed in Trench Collapse

Source: rdonar - 123RF

ASHTON, ID – A worker laying a pipe died Tuesday evening after the trench he was working in collapsed, burying him alive.

A backhoe operator told OSHA investigators workers were digging a trench for Atchley Farms and 27-year-old Romero Martinez was in the trench attempting to put pipe connections together when it collapsed. The operator told police he moved the backhoe forward to dig the trench and was 15 feet away when he saw a 10-foot line of the trench had collapsed.

Several agencies responded, including the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, Fremont County Volunteer Fire Department, Fremont County Search and Rescue, Fremont County EMS, Madison County EMS, and Air Idaho.

According to OSHA, cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities. Other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment. Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

OSHA regulations state trenches more than 5-feet deep require a protective system to prevent workers from being trapped. The regulations also warn to keep heavy equipment away from trench edges. Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries said he didn’t know how deep the trench was.

A similar death from a trench collapse happened in Boise in 2016. Hard Rock Construction, the company working on the trench, was cited in the OSHA investigation for providing inadequate protection for its workers.