Summary: While laboring at the bottom of a deep hole outfitted with trench boxes, a worker was killed when a boulder rolled down a hill and slammed into the side of the excavation.
The incident: Martin Torres Lopez, an employee of Kelchner, Inc., was assigned to install a 42-inch pipe at the bottom of an 18-foot-deep trench at a job site in Trotwood, OH.
Lopez descended into the excavation and began to work. He felt safe handling the job because his employer had stacked two 10-by-24-foot trench boxes inside the excavation.
However, the trench boxes proved ineffective when a large boulder tumbled down a hill and slammed into the side of the hole. The force of the impact caused the trench wall to collapse, fall through a spreader bar and strike Lopez from behind.
The unsuspecting worker was pinned between the collapsed trench and a pipe.
The response: Someone dialed 9-1-1, and coworkers climbed into the deep hole to reach Lopez.
When they pulled him out of the excavation, he was still alive and breathing, but he was losing consciousness.
Despite the best efforts of emergency responders, Lopez’s injuries were too severe, and he was declared dead at the scene.
The aftermath: Kelchner reported the incident to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigated the fatality but didn’t issue any fines to the employer, noting that the hole was equipped with trench boxes.
Lopez, 42, left behind his wife, Esperanza, and five kids. He was remembered as a doting father and husband who wasn’t afraid to show his love for his wife and often played with his kids.
“He fought to give his best to his family until the end,” read his obituary.
(From the June 7, 2021, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)