Safety measures ignored in Kearns Boulevard trench collapse
An executive of the construction firm involved in the late-June trench collapse along Kearns Boulevard has acknowledged that the crew involved did not take all the safety precautions it should have.
Jim Bowen, the vice president of Bowen Construction, said in an interview the crew did not use what is known as a trench box when a wall of the trench collapsed on June 29, trapping a worker in dirt up to his waist for nearly two hours.
A trench box is a contraption designed to ensure the walls of trench do not collapse on the workers. The firefighters who rescued the person fashioned a makeshift trench box using prefabricated panels before they were able to bring the man out.
"Everyone of them knew they should have waited" for a trench box to be built before working inside the narrow dig site, Bowen said in an interview, adding that the crew "didn’t use good judgment in trench safety."
Bowen said the worker suffered a dislocated hip in the incident. He expected the man to return to work as early as this week. The man is approximately 40 years old, but neither the authorities nor Bowen Construction identified him. Bowen said the man has worked for his firm for approximately seven years.
He said the crew attended a meeting focused on safety in trench projects the week before the accident.
"You can’t forget you have to do your work in a fashion that keeps you safe," Bowen said, adding that the incident was a "wake-up call for all of them stuff can happen" if precautions are not taken.
Bowen said his firm is an "extremely safe" company.
The Bowen Construction crews are undertaking the trench work in anticipation of building a pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel under Comstock Drive. The work is in its early stages. Rescuers rushed to the scene after the collapse, putting up the panels to protect against another collapse and stabilizing the man before taking him out and putting him into a medical helicopter to take him to a Salt Lake City hospital.
The Park City Building Department is investigating, with Kurt Simister, the senior building inspector, saying the walls were not properly shored up before the worker entered the trench. Simister said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating.
Simister said there are "very unstable soils" at the location that include gravel, sand and mining-era tailings.
Simister said City Hall is considering issuing citations to Bowen Construction. The citations could carry fines of between $50 and $2,000, he said.
"It should have been shored properly as per the industry standard," Simister said.
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