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Trenching Accident Kills Two New Jersey Workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has begun an investigation into the death of two construction workers in Boonton, New Jersey, about 35 miles west of New York City.

Two men working on a landscaping crew died when a large hole collapsed on top of them. Although the landscaping company, Bednar Landscape Services, Inc., has no safety violations listed in the OSHA database, an agency spokesperson said the "Trenching deaths caused by cave-ins are completely preventable."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into Wednesday's trench collapse in Boonton, New Jersey that killed two construction workers.

One worker was caught in the 10-foot hole when it collapsed, and another jumped in to save him.  Neither was able to escape. 

Trenching accidents killed 271 workers between 2000 and 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Small companies with fewer than 50 employees experienced the majority of worker trenching deaths.

OSHA requires specific safety procedures for trenches where employees will be working. It is not known whether these were in place in the Boonton accident.

Cave-ins like this are the most serious type of excavation accidents.  One cubic yard of soil weighs about 3,000 pounds, similar to a mid-size car, so it's not surprising that such accidents cause deaths.

Protective systems that can be used to prevent these types of worker accidents include slope the ground at an angle away from the hole, cutting horizontal levels or steps into the sides of an excavation, installing a shoring system to prevent walls from collapsing, and shielding workers with protective trench boxes.

OSHA has six months to complete its investigation and report on its findings.