2017-05-18 / Front Page

OSHA investigating fatal trench collapse


ACWORTH — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a fatal trench collapse that claimed the life of an Alstead man working on a project in Acworth Tuesday afternoon.

According to New Hampshire State Police Trooper Brandon Dean, 37-year-old Christopher Hewey was declared dead at the scene after the construction accident, which took place a little before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on Bascom Hill Road near Crane Brook Road in Acworth. Dean said Lempster and Acworth fire department personnel responded to the scene, along with a DHART helicopter.

According to OSHA Regional Director for Public Affairs Ted Fitzgerald, Hewey was employed by JP Trucking and Excavating out of Bellows Falls, Vermont. Company officials could not be reached for comment. Town officials were could not be reached Wednesday to disclose what the project was.

Fitzgerald said Wednesday that the administration’s regional office was notified by state police Tuesday afternoon regarding the accident, and that an official was sent to the scene and opened an inspection into the incident Tuesday to determine if any workplace safety standards were violated.

“At this point, we don’t have any estimated completion time for the investigation,” Fitzgerald said in a phone interview Wednesday, emphasizing that the administration’s jurisdiction is strictly related to workplace safety.

According to OSHA, two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Cave-ins are the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities, according to the administration. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car.

“An unprotected trench is an early grave,” the administration states.

OSHA regulations requires a protective system for workers in trenches 5 feet deep or greater unless the excavation is made entirely of stable rock. Trenches 20 feet deep or greater require that the protective system be designed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/or approved by a registered professional engineer.

Protective systems include different ways of digging the trench or installing stabilizing materials to prevent the likelihood of a collapse.

When an inspector finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards, the administration may issue citations and fines to the company carrying out the project. Citations and proposed penalties must be issued within six months of the violation’s occurrence, all according to OSHA.

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