Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Road construction worker Christopher Hewey, 37, of Alstead died when a trench he was working in on an Acworth, NH road collapsed

ACWORTH, NH — A local construction worker died when a trench he was working in on an Acworth road collapsed Tuesday afternoon, the authorities said.

The site inspection shows that no shoring was provided and a lot of rain had fallen the last two weeks, making the soil unstable. Someone should be fired over this, and the company fined and disbanded. Working-class lives matter.

Christopher L. Hewey, 37, of Alstead was working for a private contractor on a construction project on Bascom Hill Road when the accident happened Tuesday afternoon at about 1 p.m., according to Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA opened an inspection Tuesday afternoon to determine if any workplace safety standards were violated in the incident. However, the agency has yet to provide further information including the specific details about the accident, the company Hewey was working for, and the project he was working on at the time of his death.

State Police Trooper Brandon M. Dean confirmed the name of the victim this morning. State Police have referred requests for further information about the accident to OSHA.

Three other people were doing work on the town road at the time of the accident, according to police, who reached the scene at about 1:30 p.m., according to N.H. State Police Trooper Michael McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said first responders performed CPR on Hewey for about an hour after they arrived at about 1:15 p.m., but weren’t able to revive him. A medical helicopter had been on standby and was prepared to fly to a hospital.

According to an OSHA report from November 2016, in recent years the U.S. has seen a sharp increase in worker deaths caused by trench collapses, which typically occur when the walls of the trench cave in.

In 2015 there were 11 trench-related fatalities nationwide, according to the report. In 2016, as of November when the report was released, there had been 23 deaths caused by trench collapses. These collapses are rarely survivable, according to the report.

“One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs. — the weight of a small automobile — giving a worker in a trench little chance of survival when walls of soil collapse,” the report said.

Fitzgerald said OSHA inspections of trench collapses involve determining if companies took the correct safety precautions at the time an injury or fatality occurred. Such precautions could include shoring up the walls of a trench with supports or using a trench box, a device designed to protect workers, he said.

Fitzgerald said OSHA has up to six months to complete inspections.

“Inspections stemming from injuries or fatalities ... generally are not going to be wrapped up in a couple of weeks,” he said.

An OSHA official who arrived at the scene Tuesday at about 4 p.m. and left about two hours later declined to comment about the inspection.

Bascom Hill Road forks off Crane Brook Road in Acworth and winds through hilly farmland.

The stretch of the road where the accident occurred curves slightly and on Tuesday afternoon, an excavator sat there, angled upwards, on a large mound of dirt.

One side of the road borders land where hay for a dairy farm is grown, according to Bruce Bascom, who owns the land and the farm. On the other side, there’s a small pond. Uphill and a few hundred feet away is the farm itself.

Two men who were at the scene of the fatal accident while police and the OSHA official investigated and appeared to be construction workers declined to comment.