Howell trench collapse triggers OSHA investigation, reminder

HOWELL, NJ – A June 30 incident in which a worker was trapped in a collapsed trench at a residential construction site in Howell has prompted a new call for safety from the Safety and Security Administration. Occupational Health from the US Department of Labor.

“All New Jersey employers must take the necessary steps to protect workers from trench-related fatalities and injuries.” OSHA Regional Director Paula Dixon-Roderick, Marlton, said in a news release.

Leni Fortson, spokeswoman for OSHA, said the agency had “an open investigation” into the incident in which a 26-year-old man was rescued with the help of numerous first responders after being buried shoulder-deep in dirt and stuck in the trench for hours.

Fortson said the man worked for Solid Concrete Walls Co. LLC of 103 N Egg Harbor Road, Hammonton. The owner of the business is George Rizzi, she said.

OSHA opened its investigation on June 30. The agency has six months to conduct its investigation and release its findings, Fortson said.

The Howell trench measured 40 inches x 40 inches, about 7 1/2 feet deep, located behind the home’s basement wall, according to the news release. The house was at Carmine Way in Howell.

OSHA is investigating an incident in which a Solid Concrete Walls worker was buried up to his shoulders in a trench collapse at a construction site in Howell on June 30. He was rescued. But the agency reminds businesses (above) of the need to take proper safety precautions. (Image courtesy of OSHA)

“A trench can quickly become an early grave if the proper protection is not used.” said Dixon-Roderick.

The rescue, she said, “should remind employers to take proper precautions. OSHA’s message to employers is simple: bow it, shore it and protect it.”

From 2020 to 2021, OSHA has documented 20 deaths and injuries related to trenching and excavation. The main cause of these deaths was adequate protection against cave-ins.

“These tragic worker deaths have lasting impacts on the families, co-workers and communities of workers,” the press release said.

For the Howell worker, there was a major response from authorities in the area and he was rescued unharmed.

According to a press release issued last week by Det. sergeant. Peter Kuppler of the Howell Police Department.

The man was trapped in a hole about 10 feet in the ground for three hours. He was surrounded by earth up to his shoulders.

There was a language barrier between the victim and the rescuers, but Howell Police EMT Valerie Deano was able to reassure the victim and communicate with her in Spanish, according to the news release.

Howell Township Police Sergeant Paul Mazzeo, a trench collapse expert, arrived on the scene and immediately began consolidating the hole. Mazzeo is also a trench collapse and rescue specialist with Brick Township Technical Rescue and New Jersey Task Force 1 (a Federal FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team). He called in a trench rescue unit from the Asbury Park Fire Department and the Brick Township Technical Rescue Team to respond to the scene.

After approximately three hours, the victim was extracted from the collapse. He was examined at the scene by paramedics and paramedics. He was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune as a precaution. Two rescuers were treated at the scene for minor rescue-related injuries, police said.

All response units had a direct impact in preventing one fatality in the incident, police said last week.

The following agencies had been requested to assist in the rescue:

  • Howell Township Police Department
  • Howell Police EMS
  • Howell Township First Aid Squad
  • Freewood Acres Fire Department
  • Southard Fire Department
  • Howell Township Public Works Department
  • Monmouth County Public Works
  • Township of Howell Emergency Management Office
  • Atlantic Health Paramedics
  • Asbury Park Fire Department
  • Brick Township Technical Rescue Team.