Safety procedures examined regarding excavations

Posted at 11:03 PM, Mar 15, 2017

Omaha Fire crews spent more than six hours rescuing 23-year-old Andrew Johnson, a utility worker from a trench near 130th and Hawthorn Tuesday afternoon.

Although the extensive amount of time fire crews spent on the rescue was questioned, as well why they didn't use suction trucks with hoses to suck dirt out of the trench early in the day, John Lewis, a safety trainer for Nebraska Safety Council says in any type of excavation or rescue, safety and time go hand in hand.

"Trenching is a risky business," says Lewis.

Lewis has spent decades training OSHA and employers on safety measures in the workplace. 

He also hosts several trainings specifically on excavating both on and off site. 

Lewis says most workers are required to fill out a checklist each day before entering a trench and conducting an excavation to ensure it's safe to enter.

"They do certain checks as far as depth of the trench, the type of soil that 's in the trench. Depth is a big concern. Anything over five feet should have special measures taken," said Lewis. 

Lewis says if a worker does not feel safe or finds conditions which prevent the worker from entering the trench safely, they are responsible for informing their superiors. He says workers cannot get reprimanded for that.

Lewis added that rescues can take time, as crews work to prevent a second collapse.

"If he's in solid mud, that type of thing, suction tubes are not going to suck up very much very fast," said Lewis.