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How One Man’s Trench Collapse Survival Can Improve Your Safety

Construction worker digging dirt in trench with the help of a digger

The importance of reducing trenching and excavation hazards has become more urgent in recent years due to an increase in excavation-related fatalities. In 2016, for example, there were nearly double the average number of trenching and excavation fatalities when compared to the previous five years.

Lack of adherence to safety regulations, complacency on part of the employer or the employees, and other human errors can often lead to serious trenching incidents. And when hundreds of cubic feet of earth fall on a worker, their chances of survival are very slim.

One such incident happened to Joe Tantarelli, whose article “The Buried Truth About Human Factors” appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Leader magazine. Joe describes his own brush with death when a trench he was working in collapsed. He barely survived and is now sharing his story to help prevent similar incidents.

For years, Joe struggled to understand how this collapse could have happened to him. After all, he was a safety-conscious operator-foreman with solid experience. Only years later did he understand how his state of mind affected his actions that day:

It wasn’t until I had taken some human factors training that it clicked for me. Your state of mind can greatly impact your critical decisions. I knew the hazards but I wasn’t in tune with how complacency and other states of mind can impact safety. I had a happy ending to what could have been a tragic story, but if I’d known how to prevent the errors caused by my mental state, this incident could have been avoided.

The article argues that states of mind affect critical decisions in all situations. As Joe says, learning about human factors can significantly improve people’s safety:

You may never get caught in a trench collapse, but the tasks of your job and the risks you face at home or while driving can still cause serious physical injuries and leave lasting emotional effects on you and the ones you love. (…) protecting people through engineering solutions is a basic requirement, but how can they be protected against their own state of mind?

Those in charge of safety shouldn’t shy away from the subject of human factors. When combined with engineering solutions and physical protection, human factors training can elevate the company culture to new heights and improve everyone’s safety wherever they are.

Joe also shares his story in this recent, free webinar that provides a more detailed analysis of what happened to him and how his state of mind influenced his decisions.

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