Trapped Trench Worker Dies, Experts Say Death Was Preventable

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The OSHA investigation into the death of trapped trench worker is ongoing but a certified trench instructor says the death could have easily been avoided.

On Wedesnday, 31-year-old, Brian Powell, died at Methodist Hospital. The Polk County Medical Examiners Office said he died from multiple blunt force trauma and traumatic asphyxiation.

Powell was working in a trench on the site of the retirement facility last Friday when the trench caved in, trapping him. The accident occurred after heavy rain fell in the area.  An OSHA certified trench instructor and union member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33, said the accident was preventable and blames the rain.

"It's one of the main factors to make trench excavation more dangerous. Water adds weight to the sides of the soil, its also increases cracks in the soil," said Lee Gard. He said a cubic yard of soil can weigh more than ton when wet.

OSHA does not require workers to wear a harness unless they are in an enclosed space but it does stress trenches need to have exits every 25 feet. Gard also highly recommends construction companies use safety boxes and support beams to keep workers safe. He does not know if any of  those measures were in place in Story City but he knows what can happen when they aren't.

"We`ve had a member in a trench only 36 inches high, 3 foot. He bent over, the ditch collapsed and actually caved his hips in," he said. "It doesn’t need to be a deep ditch to be dangerous."

According to OSHA, 30 people died on the job in trench related incidents.

There is no word on how long the investigation process might take.

A fund is set up for Powell at the Greater Iowa Credit Union at  600 E 30th St. Des Moines 50317

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