Case Study: Trench Rescue Near Miss

The information in this blog post comes from the  To read the full near miss entry that was submitted, click here.

What Happened:

The fire department was dispatched to a trench collapse, with reports of two people trapped.  The first-arriving engine company arrived and spoke to “experts” that were on-scene at the construction site.  According to the experts, shoring was not required.  The engine company personnel entered the excavation and began working to free the only trapped individual (the other had self-extricated prior to their arrival).

When the battalion chief arrived on-scene, he/she established a command presence and ordered everyone out of the excavation.  Luckily, everyone was removed, apparently including the patient.  Moments later there was a secondary collapse of the remaining excavation wall.

11-24Source: IFSTA


Awareness level training is paramount!  According to NFPA 1670, emergency services organizations must identify hazards in their community.  If there is a chance their members will be dispatched to a technical rescue incident, the organization must at a minimum provide awareness level training to its members.  In this case study, the engine company personnel either did not have awareness level training, or their training was inadequate.  Luckily, the battalion chief was able to identify the hazard of a secondary collapse and evacuated the trench.

Any time there has been a collapse of an excavation or a trench wall, there is always the possibility of a secondary collapse.  How many times have you seen workers inside trenches with the trench boxes sitting outside of the trench (pictured above)?  While we sometimes must rely on “experts” that are on-scene, we must also realize that we are there for a reason.  Specifically, something has already gone wrong!  Often that something went wrong because the expert on-scene was either not educated on the hazard or chose to skip the appropriate safety measures needed to mitigate the hazard.  We must critically analyze the information provided to us when performing our size-up to ensure our members and the patient remain safe.

Please contact us if your emergency services organization needs Trench Rescue Awareness (3 hours) or any other awareness level training!

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

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